Re: on money substance and abstract labor

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Jun 08 2004 - 17:24:44 EDT

> There seems to me to be 2 problems with this argument
> 1. Generalised commodity production requires a universal scalar measure
>      of value, but this does not logically imply that that scalar must
> itself be
>      a commodity.
>      One could as well argue : value is social labour time, the Pound
> Sterling
>       measures value, thus the Pound Sterling is just another name for a
> certain
>      quantity of social time.
Claus replied

This is ok as long as you acknowledge the Pound Sterling to be the name of
a certain amount of a commodity, which then represents the amount of
social labour time that produced it. The social labour content of the
Pound is given by the social labour contained in the commodity from which
it is made. But if you define the Pound as just a name independent of a
material substance, how can you referr it to a certain amount of social
labour? There can be no social labour in something that has not been
produced by social labour. Can you? How?

Paul C replies
The pound sterling is defined in labour terms by the labour services
 and the commodities purchased by the state.
This is the real appropriation of surplus labour by the state. The number of
pounds used to purchase this surplus labour defines the value of the pound.

This process operates whether or not the state attempts to fix the price of
gold or other commodities. It operates as a constraint on the ability of the
state to fix the price of gold.

I don't think there are hidden premises in Marx's theory of money. There
may be unnoticed premises. If one goes from the market to the State or the
other way round is not a matter of fact but of theoretical assumptions. It
seems to me to be true that for Marx the State has its specific origin in
the existence of private property, which came into existence a long time
before capitalism. Thus it is no surprise that the State, as a general
social fact, came prior to generalized commodity production, but this does
not mean that the latter derived from the State. The historical
materialist standpoint is that the State has one cause and the exchange of
commodities another cause. The *bourgeois* State, on the other hand, only
comes into existence after the bourgeois form of private property becomes
prevalent, and this only occurs after money has long been established as
part of the exchange of commodities, because without money there would not
be capitalism nor a bourgeois State.

Paul Cockshott

I agree with you about the bourgeois state coming after generalized
commodity production and monetary exchanges in Europe. This of course was
not true for Africa, where the bourgeois state came first and established
the circulation of money and thus of commodities.

In much of Europe it was originally the Roman Empire that established the
circulation of money. This circulation collapsed substantially with the end
of the empire. It was then re-established under feudal states. Thus for
Europe, the question of the origins of money and of commodity sales for
money has to go back to the Imperial period. From Bolin's work it is clear
that the Roman currency system can not be modeled in terms of the denarius
being a standardized weight of silver.

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