[OPE-L:4867] [CLAUS] RE: use-value of money

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 16:38:12 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

Dear Alejandro R.:

Thank you for your question and your patience in expecting an answer.
Your question is:

>---------> What is the use-value of money? <--------------

In an earlier note [4808] you quoted Marx in Capital I, ch. 2, where he
refers to the "dual use-value" of the money-commodity. One of them is
its use-value as an ordinary commodity, the other its "formal use-value,
arising out of its specific social function", which is "the social
function of a universal equivalent" (Ib., same page). You also quoted
Marx as he states that the capitalist "cannot eat his money". Well, I
dont think this invalidates the fact that the money commodity has a
use-value consisting of its social function, for the wants use-values
satisfy may "spring from the stomach or from fancy" (C, I, ch. I).

I dont see the point in distinguishing gold as a "commodity" from gold
as a "general object". Gold doesnt fall from the sky, it has to be
produced, and it is produced because of its use-value, its double
use-value. Thus, gold is a product of labor as any other commodity and
is ipso facto a commodity. I understand - maybe inaccurately - that with
this distinction you intend to imply that any objet, such as paper -
abstracting its value as a commodity - could be used as money. In this
case I have to mention one of the points I tried to make in my EEA-97
paper, which is to demonstrate that, in Marx's theory, money has of
necessity to be a commodity, meaning that it has to be an objetc having
value, as every other commodity, and of course use-value.

It seems to me that the discussion about the ability of a stopwatch to
measure abstract labor, that followed your question about the use-value
of money, indicates the essential reason why, in my opinion, according
to Marx's theoretical reasoning, money has to be a commodity and not a
mere object. The reason is: to perform the function of measure of value.
To settle the problem, it is of no use quoting one or other statement of
Marx, instead it is necessary to apprehend the logical structure of
Marx's reasoning about the subject, and where it is clearer, again in my
opinion, is in the Grundrisse, in the chapter about money, which I
quoted in my paper.

Marx attempts to demonstrate that the substance of value being abstract
labor, whose quantitative dimension is time, and considering that labor
time doesnt have an autonomous form of objective existence *except
within the products of labor*, it follows that labor time can only be
measured in the quantities of its products. In this way, one unit of
every commodity represents a certain ammount of abstract or social labor
- not the particular labor time spent to produce *this* particular unit
of the commodity, which may be measured by the stopwatch. The ammount of
social labor, or value, can only be determined within the process of
exchange itself, through the multiple and repeated confrontation of the
commodities one against the others. In this process one commodity is
segregated as index of social labor, i.e., a certain ammount of this
commodity represents a certain ammount of social labor. This is the
universal *equivalent of value*.

If by saying that money is no longer a commodity, one means the central
bank notes like the dollar, the sterling, etc, this is correct only in
the sense that central bank notes are not money, but forms of credit
money. In the circulation functions money has long been replaced by
symbols of value and credit money.

The problem however is: how can the function of measure of value be
performed by something that is not a commodity? I dont refer to a
statistical ex post measure which equates the sum-total of the
money-value of the net produtct with the sum-total of the work-time
performed, I refer to the way in which money-values of commodities are
determined in the market, before we can use them to calculate a
statistical figure.

This is my question for you.

Thank yoy again for kindly bringing me into the debate.