Re: (OPE-L) on money, capital, and the state

From: Paul C (clyder@GN.APC.ORG)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 17:51:49 EDT

Costas Lapavitsas wrote:

>Actually, the debate on the historical/logical orign of money is considerably older than the German version, but Ingham seems unaware of it. It goes back at least to Mercantilism and the notion of money arising as abstract unit of accout, rather than concrete means of exchange, as often suggested by classical political economists. It is the debate of the 'macoute', the ideal gold bar that Africans presumably used to measure value, but which was not means of exchange. Marx was perfectly aware of it, and rejected it out of hand. Incidentally, in the same context, he also rejected 'abstract' bank money, i.e. the florin banco of the Bank of Amsterdam. And he was right. The macoute was a myth and the florin banco was commodity money reserves used by the Bank. A critical reading of Ingham and related literature similarly reveals that Babylonian/Summerian abstract units of account, which were presumably thought up by clever state bureaucrats, exist more in febrile theoretical imaginations than in cuneiform tablets.
I would like to see you elaborate your reasons for rejecting Polanyi's 
arguments on this. I only know
or the Summerian system through secondary sources - Polanyi on trade, 
and Ifrah and others on the
development of the  associated monetary system. Have you gone to the 
original archaelogical literature?

>I think that a significant merit of Marx's approach to money's emergence is that it treats money as unit of account as inseparable from means of exchange, both in history and in theory. By the same token, money is seen as product of commodity exchange, not abstract measuring device invented by the state. The theoretical problem is logically to derive money out of exchange without falling into a neoclassical trap, while allowing for money to play a broad social role. 
 It is clear that this is the way Marx treats money, whether this is a 
significant merit is
what is under dispute.

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