Re: on money substance and abstract labor

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 20:21:17 EDT

At 10:40 PM +0100 6/4/04, Paul C wrote:
>Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>>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.
>What is 'logico-historical' terms?

As I said in my last post (reproduced below), Marx begins with the
apparent:  in a system of generalized commodity production, one
commodity has been selected in which all the others express their
value. He then relates the history and logic of how one commodity
came to be so selected or in other words the logic of practice that
drove humanity from the simple to the universal value form. Marx is
concerned not with transitions in forms of consciousness alone but in
the "institutional" forms of a social form, the forms of the
equivalent form.  One then gives a rational account of that history,
that is an ideal genesis of the money form.

>The problem with an ideal genesis is that it tells you more about your
>theory than it tells you about what happened.  One can have an arbitrary
>number of theories from which one can construct ideal histories that
>purport to explain the present - on what basis does one then choose
>between them?

I don't think it's arbitrary for Marx to analyze in logical and
historical terms why the generalized commodity production came to
depend on the selection of a universal equivalent.

He is interested in the relation between commodity and money.

It's not clear to me what Knapp or chartalist theories of money add
to or controvert about this, but I shall read Ingaham.

>Aesthetic beauty?
>How does one tell which theory is right?
>Of course there can be no presentation of the history that is not itself an
>interpretation based on a theory, but the weight of evidence seems to me
>tilted against the commodity theory of money. I find the arguments of Wray
>and Ingham on this score to be convincing, and to fit in with what I have
>read from other sources - besides having their own interior logic.

In defetishizing money, Marx argues that money
has the power of direct exchangeability only because a system of
generalized commodity production and exchange demands a commodity be
selected in which all others express their value (we can trace this
process of selection from simple to general to universal value form,
which is both a logical and historical process; tracing the process
in this way Marx calls an ideal genesis of the money form). That then
gives money the fetishistic power of direct exchangeability. Money
does not have the power outside the system of generalized commodity
exchange which could not have fully developed  without one commodity
having had come to specialize in the function of expressing the value
of all others. Commodity production creates the money fetish; the
fetish object of money does not create commodity production. Hence,
it is utopian to attempt to abolish money (or even interest) without
abolishing generalized commodity production. Marx's argument or so
called monetary theory can be understood in dual terms: a critique of
monetary cranks and a demonstration of the dialectical inversion
money can undergo from facilitator of production to fetter.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Jun 06 2004 - 00:00:01 EDT