From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Jul 16 2004 - 04:49:41 EDT
I understand what you are getting at, but I feel that the essential point about money is that it is a command over labour. Commodities are just the indirect means by which that is accomplished. The fact that this power of command was at times embodied in counters made of gold or silver is not essential, since what is involved is essentially a social relation, a power of one agent over another. That power can as well be exerted through a technology of record that is in no way dependent on any particular commodity, as it is through the modern banking system. In abstracting from relations of force, one is in danger of abstracting from social relations of power, and as such from what I would see as the essence of monetary relations. Bourgeois economics strives to hide the power relations involved by fables about free and equal property owners meeting in a market and choosing to exchange, and in the process deciding to use one particular bartered commodity as a numeraire. It seems to me that Marx makes a concession to this view of the world in Capital since its purpose is to be an internal critique of bourgeois political economy. He wants to say something like ' Even if one accepts that money is nothing more than the free development of voluntary commodity barter, it develops, with the purchase of labour power, into the untrammelled domination of one class over another.' However, one is not obliged to accept the starting point of the commodity theory of money if one is trying to analyse what is really happening today, rather than have a dialogue with early 19th century bourgeois economics. -----Original Message----- From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Howard Engelskirchen Sent: 16 July 2004 02:39 To: OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU Subject: Re: measurement of abstract labor Hi Paul, You write: PAUL: "It is a matter of theoretical choice to abstract from force in thinking of money rather than choosing to abstract from the use of gold. In making the second choice one is going with the grain of history, in making the former, one is not." In considering the grain of history, I don't think you abstract from either one. The point of conducting the thought experiment of "what if promise, credit, etc. were presented without stable relations of force" is to put into relief the fact that non-commodity mechanisms of money work to accomplish the exchange of values as long as such relations do exist. If as a matter of history non-commodity mechanisms have been able to substitute for gold it is precisely because we rely on stable relations of force. I don't consider that this equates with either abstracting from gold or establishing a system that doesn't rest on a money commodity. Howard ----- Original Message ----- From: "Paul Cockshott" <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> To: <OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU> Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2004 6:09 AM Subject: Re: [OPE-L] measurement of abstract labor Howard ------- I did not pitch the comments I made on the priorities of emergence at the level of historical development, so I'm quite happy to accept your points. I think there is a real contribution critical scientific realism can make here. If we study the real causal structures of things, that doesn't mean we study their historical development. So I can speak of causal priorities without having to map that also as historical priority. As an analogy, I can study the way the lungs function in mammals and what their consequences are for other parts of the body structure without studying the historical evolution of lungs in mammals. In fact there's a way in which being able to do the latter depends on a good grasp of the former. I think this explanation also responds to your point about "taking force away" leading to the collapse of commodity production. Without doubt this is correct at the level of actual historical events. But if I am pursuing the simplest determinations in the sense of the "Method of Political Economy" I can take force away by means of abstraction and uncover the simpler determinations of the underlying relations of production and exchange. Paul ---- This is broadly a fair enough point. But in dealing with the inter-relationship between force and commodity exchange, one has to be careful about the form of abstraction one is proposing. It is a matter of theoretical choice to abstract from force in thinking of money rather than choosing to abstract from the use of gold. In making the second choice one is going with the grain of history, in making the former, one is not. Howard ---------- I'm interested in your point that I have portrayed state money as on a par with private bills of exchange. Can you give a fuller explanation of the problem you see here? Paul ---- There are several answers to this. 1. The state is not just another actor like a private individual in the market, it is only such, to the extent that the political influence of sections of the bourgeoisie pressurise it to act in such a limited manner. 2. Bills of exchange are promises to pay state legal tender, they thus presuppose state legal tender. The same can be said of bank accounts, credit cards etc. State money is only a promise in a very limited sense - that the state promises to accept it in payment of tax debts. But these tax debts are fundamentally different from the commercial debts that give rise to bills of exchange. In the latter case, we have a conservation of property between the two agents in the relation. Cotton spinner x gives up yarn to weaving company y in return for a promise of cash in 90 days, the value of x's property does not change as a result. When the state tells x that he must render to the exchequer 5000 pounds by the 31st of December, there is a decrease in x's property as a result. It is not an exhange of equivalents. Thus a conceptual apparatus that attempts to deduce money from the exchange of equivalents misses out on the basic non-exchange relation that generates the circulation of money in the first place.
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