[OPE-L:5226] Re: Metal money

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 18:25:55 -0700 (PDT)

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Some short comments on Mike W's [OPE-L:5225]:

> What is lost by placing the emphasis on 'DEFINITE' instead of 'commodity',
> dropping 'other' (twice), and noting that 'the GENERAL COMMODITY, the
> COMMODITY *PAR EXCELLENCE*' is indeed distinguished as a unique commodity -
> a *very peculiar* Commodity - so peculiar that it does not fall under the
> category Commodity ? Because, IMO, a lot is to be gained in terms of
> conceptual clarity,

I'm not sure what is to be gained in terms of conceptual clarity from
saying that money (and labour-power) aren't commodities vs. saying that
they are are very, very, very, etc. special, i.e. unique, commodities.

> [...] trying to maintain gold-convertibility can
> be a mistake for capitalism (the material basis for which might be the
> undue political influence of money-capital); and that the State is
> necessarily implicated in the reproduction of Money - even when it is
> (supposed to be) Commodity Money.

I agree with the above and believe that the way in which the state is
"necessarily implicated in the reproduction of Money" needs to be examined
further when one, more concretely, examines the state-form.

> I realise that my 'rectifications' will be unwelcome to those who don't
> believe that any adjustment needs to be made to accommodate the development
> of the real categories of capitalism since Marx's day.

I don't find your 'rectifications' to be 'unwelcome' and I certainly don't
want to be included in the [unnamed] category of those who "don't believe
that any adjustment needs to be made to accommodate the development of the
real categories of capitalism since Marx's day."

Yet, I would like -- in order to avoid confusion -- to keep two questions
separate. I.e. to keep the question of what best describes Marx's position
on money separate from the question of what are the most appropriate
categories required to conceptualize capitalism. If I understand you
correctly, you believe the second question is more essential. I agree with
you. But, to the extent that the first question is discussed, I think it
needs to be discussed on its own terms rather than conflating it with the
second question.

> Of course, I
> recognise that there is still a legitimate and unresolved dispute about
> wether, and to what extent, commodity money (in the form of bullion
> reserves) has lost its significance in the regulation of capitalism. IMO,
> the right way to examine this issue is to investigate how these reserves
> might 'bite back' if capital and/or the State tried to ignore their
> effects. (The analogy might be the way in which the law of gravity would
> bite-back if I tried to ignore its effects by leaping out of my 16th floor
> window, flapping my arms vigorously.)

Are there any recent (late 20th century) historical examples of the 'bite
back' mechanism?

I don't know the answer to the above question so the examples put forward
by other listmembers might help to clarify this topic.

While I'm asking questions related to money that I don't know the answer
to, I have another such question:

Does anyone know what percentage of the world's gold reserves were
accumulated through the mechanism of colonial plunder of non-capitalist
social formations (i.e. the original accumulation of capital) rather than
being products of capitalist production?

> Incidently, I would be interested in anyone's interpretation, in the light
> of their Marxist theory of money, of the current spat in Germany over
> Kohl's attempt to re-value that country's gold reserves (in order to
> improve the fiscal balance for the purposes of meeting the criteria for
> joining the Euro), which was resisted by the Bundesbank. (The outcome was a
> compromise in which Kohl gets his revaluation, but it is apparently not
> allowed to affect Germany's books until after the qualifying period for the
> Euro). Of course at one level it is just another example of a very cautious
> Central Bank fearful of inflationary pressures (now, and by precedent, for
> the Euro in the future) vs a politician with a broader set of macroeconomic
> indicators in mind. But what will the revaluation mean in Marxist value
> terms: an adjustment to the 'true' labour value, from the existing
> undervaluation of Germany's gold? Or a move to 'over-value' gold? or what.
> One could ask the same series of questions about some kind of shadow
> equilibrium price of gold-reserves.
> Any comments?

Sorry, I can't help you here. But I would surely be interested in what
others have to say on that topic.

In solidarity, Jerry