Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: cmgermer@UFPR.BR
Date: Wed Jul 21 2004 - 09:09:51 EDT

Jurriaan wrote:

I was merely referring to the fact that the monetary system has evolved
very substantially beyond the realities of the 19th century, when you
could still make a credible case for a "commodity theory of money" to
explain monetary phenomena. In which case, you have to show how the basic
theory of money, founded on an understanding of the historical evolution
of money, is modified by new conditions. It's just that in the case of a
debased or destabilised currency, the real nature and functioning of money
in exchange relations becomes much clearer, I think, and the illusions
created by fiduciary currency are pierced through. I aim to do more work
on this when I get time (just now my life is littered with unfinished
projects, which probably proves I am being disorganised). I personally
don't think Ernest Mandel's monetary and credit theory, despite shrewd
insights, was really very good, but I do recommend that article of his I

Why do you think a ‘commodity theory of money’ is only credible in the
19th century setting? Don’t you agree that the so called gold-dollar
standard of the Bretton Woods system was based on gold as money at least
until the 1970s? Weren’t the currencies of the leading capitalist
countries explicitly and officially defined in terms of gold and exchanged
on the basis of their gold contents?

There is a widespread opinion according to which Marx adopted the concept
of money as a commodity because this was commonsense in the 19th century.
If this were true, it would mean that he did not have any real theory of
money, and it would also mean that those who today stand for a paper fiat
form of money can be accused as well of simply following the present
commonsense that money is in fact just fiat paper money. Consequently, the
conclusion would be that Marx did not elaborate a consistent theory of
money and that the Marxists of today haven’t done it either.

It might well be that Marx's theory of money is wrong, but in my opinion
it is not true that Marx just picked up the appearance of money in his
time and worked out a theoretical justification for it. In the time he
wrote, there was already a widespread opinion that the relation of the
currency to gold was only a practical way of preventing the central bank
from issuing banknotes in excess. This is the group Schumpeter called
‘practical metalists’. Marx explicitly discussed and objected the theories
of an abstract unit of account that had great acceptance in England at
least since the early 18th century (Contribution). His theory of money is
based on his concept of the nature of a commodity producing economy and of
the ways in which social labor has to be distributed in this case.


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