Re: Money and Mind

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 07:34:47 EDT

Hi Costas,

At this stage we must be careful to separate interpreting Marx with offering a view of
money (though the two are closely related). I will just briefly consider your view as
an interpretation of Marx below. I would like, but do not have time, to explore
properly the various aspects to the interesting quotation you have raised.

> "To compare money with language is no less erroneous. Language does
> not transform ideas, so that the peculiarity of ideas is dissolved and
> their social character runs alongside them as a separate entity, like
> prices alongside commodities. Ideas do not exist separately from
> language. Ideas do not have first to be translated out of their mother
> tongue into a foreign language in order to circulate, in order to
> become exchangeable, offer a somewhat better analogy; but the analogy
> lies not in language, but in the foreignness of language."
> The point here is that money represents an essential aspect of the
> commodity, but it does so as 'another', as something different from
> the commodity whose aspect is represented. Language does not operate
> in this way. It is a common anthropological fallacy to imagine money
> as language, or as an ideal symbolical system. Codere springs to mind.

There are certain problems with Marx's terminology here on which see below. But
the main point is that there is a disanology between language and value expression:
language doesn't entail commodity fetishism. Therefore the 'translation' analogy is
much better (elsewhere Marx talks of 'social hieroglyphics' and, I think,
'deciphering'). But now we have a better analogy it leaves your position as follows:
you are attempting  to explain the emergence of money whilst abstracting from its'
essence as a part of the social hieroglyphics of value expression. In terms of our
analogy, you are attempting to explain the emergence of codes whilst abstracting
from their essence as 'secret translations' of known languages.

> For my purposes, the represented aspect of the commodity is exchange
> value, as Marx makes crystal clear in the same section of the
> Grundrisse.

The major point here is that Marx changes his mind from writing the Grundrisse to
writing Capital, and indeed, through to the second edition of Capital. By the second
edition of Capital, Marx *rejects* this very use of the term 'exchange value' that he
emphasises in the passage you have quoted! He comes to see very clearly that
another concept, 'value', is required. This leads me back to Vol.1,ch.1, first 3 pages,
of Capital (2nd edition!). In these pages Marx makes clear the value / exchange
value distinction, and thus implicitly makes clear his rejection of his position in the
Grindrisse. Chris Arthur, Andrew Kliman (the latter in Historical Materialism) and
others have detailed Marx's gradual realistaion of the need to distinguish value and
exchange value. Steve Keen has kind of done but from a crtical angle where the
Grindrisse view is taken as a critique of the view in 'Capital'.

Thus I would be interested if you could clarify your view on the argument on the first
few pages of 'Capital'.

Let me clarify that I am by no means rejecting your important argument re
emergence of money. Rather I would want to reinterpret your argument in light of
the necessity of the concept of value.

 There is absolutely no need for abstract labour in this
> context. More to the point, however, as a commodity's exchange value
> comes to be represented by another,  the commodity that is doing the
> representing is simultaneously able to exchange directly with the
> commodity that is being represented. I think that this property of
> direct exchangeability (i.e, the other side of the coin of value
> representation) is the source of 'moneyness'. The process of its
> monopolisation by a single commodity through the 'relative -
> equivalent' dialectic is also the process of money's spontaneous
> emergence.

I reject -- and so to does Marx in the first few pages of Capital, -- the notion that 'the'
exchange value of the commodity is represented by another commodity. Rather the
other commodity is *an* exchange value of the commodity in question. The
commodity in question has as many exchange values as there are other
commodities on the market. They represent the *value* of the commodity in

As you know the Notes on Wagner are another good source for these distinctions.

Many thanks,


> Costas
> At 09:26 03/06/2004 -0700, you wrote:
> >Hi Andy
> >
> > > To try an analogy: 'explaining' the emergence of money whilst
> > abstracting from the
> > > existence and substance of value is like 'explaining' the
> > > emergence of
> > language
> > > whilst abstracting from the fact that it achieves reference, that
> > > it
> > has a semantic as
> > > well as syntactic side.
> >
> >That is very well put and I think not an analogy.
> >
> >-Ian.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Jun 05 2004 - 00:00:01 EDT