Re: on money substance and abstract labor

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Thu Jun 03 2004 - 01:13:39 EDT

At 9:09 PM -0400 6/2/04, Allin Cottrell wrote:
>On Wed, 2 Jun 2004, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>  on the analysis of money, it seems that we have to reach clarity as
>>  to what kind of account Marx is providing. He refers to it as an
>>  ideal genesis of money--this seems to be the key phrase.  How does
>>  this compare to a history of money? What about money is it supposed
>>  to explain? Is it an evolutionary account?
>The problem is that an "ideal genesis" can be totally arbitrary: the
>way one thinks (on some basis or other) that money "ought to have

Marx implicitly begins with the recognition that in a system of
general commodity exchange and production one commodity had come to
specialize in the function of expressing the value of all the other
commodities, as universal equivalent. I think Marx is interested in
the history of money insofar as he can lay out the "practical
conditions that made both necessary and possible the the
specialization of a certain category of commodity" in this function
of universal equivalent (Godelier). Marx is not interested in the
different forms of money that are encountered in human socities and
how they emerged but rather only in this specific logico historical
analysis of money as a universal equivalent. That this is a narrower
project than a history of money Marx indicates by calling his account
an "ideal genesis" of money. For this project Marx need not write an
account account of the emergence of money is actually consistent with
all what we now know of the history of money.

I think a lot hangs on the distinction between an ideal genesis and
an history and a lot hangs on exactly what about money Marx is trying
to explain in logico-historical terms.

I only say this to stimulate further discussion.

>  Marx has a certain amount in common with the standard
>neoclassical fairy tales of commodity money -- mostly deriving from
>Samuelson -- in this respect (historically vice versa, of course).

I read Kevin Dowd's evolutionary account in the Smithin, ed What is
Money book a while ago. Marx is interested in how money can suffer a
dialectical inversion, that is, go from a social technology that
promotes exchange and thus the development of the forces of
production into a fetter, if not destructive force. The seeds of this
inversion would have to be latent in the money commodity as initially
derived. It is certainly there in the first part of Capital. Can't
see how Dowd, Samuelson would agree.


>Paul C is reminding us of an important obligation: a putative account
>of the emergence of money should be consistent with what we now know
>of the relevant history.  This seems a minimal materialist
>Allin Cottrell.

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