[OPE-L:2370] Re: commodity money in Marx's theory

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Mon, 27 May 1996 06:28:23 -0700

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Fred wrote in [OPE-L:2367]:

> I am still not clear in my own mind if Marx intended to argue (predict) that
> money in capitalism must always be a commodity or instead to explain why
> actual commodity-money in 19th century capitalism performed the functions
> that it did.

I don't think that Marx argued -- "predict(ed)" -- that money must always
take the form of a commodity under capitalism. I also don't think that his
analysis could be described simply as explaining "why actual
commodity-money in 19th Century capitalism performed the functions it
did." I think, rather, that the analysis and assumption of
commodity-money is a necessary *moment* in the development of his theory
(see below).

> Marx's argument seems to be (1) that commodities
> must possess an independent, objective measure of their values and (2) that

I think this is probably correct as an interpretation of Marx.

> My main question has to do with (2). Is (2) is a necessary deduction from
> Marx's labor theory of value or from the objective nature of Marx's logical
> method? Or is it instead based on a particular conception of "measure"? Or
> is it perhaps a temporary assumption that Marx made at the beginning of his
> theory but which can be relaxed at later stages in the theory?

It is consistent with Marx's form of investigation and method of
presentation that he would first analyze how money abstractly takes the
form of a commodity before analyzing disturbances from this tendency
brought about either by conjunctural developments or the intervention of
the *state*.

What is the key factor *NOT* included in his analysis of money? In
_Capital_, Marx examines money in an economy "free" from state
intervention. Yet, state intervention is both a presupposition for the
analysis of money (as Paul C argued many months back) and a result of

While money took the form of commodity-money during Marx's day and while
we have no way of knowing for sure how Marx intended to examine this topic
further *beyond* Capital, let me note that this is an issue that we could
and should address in considering "Book IV" -- "The State".

In OPE-L Solidarity,