Re: [OPE-L] Money in China and Europe

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Apr 16 2005 - 11:30:52 EDT

At 2:41 PM +0100 4/14/05, Paul Cockshott wrote

in a very interesting post
>Have you ever been struck by the Eurocentric nature of
>Marx's metallist treatment of money?
>It takes as given that money must be made of a precious
>metal. In doing this it ignores the history of money
>in China. There money had frequently been made entirely
>of base metals such as bronze and iron, and by the Song
>period one thousand years ago, even this had been in
>large measure replaced by printed paper currency.
>Given a large state with a professional salaried civil
>service it was quite feasible for the government to
>ensure that its money circulated by virtue of accepting
>it for tax payments.
>According to von Glahn chartalism, the principle that the
>value of money is determined by the monetary authority
>irrespective of the use value of the substance employed
>as money, was a fundamental tenet of classical
>Chinese monetary analysis.
>See von Glahn, Fountain of Fortune, pp. 23-47.
>This would make it seem that the predominance of metallist
>doctrines in Europe is a reflection of the long period of
>European barbarism and disunity between the fall of the
>Carolingian empire and the establishment of the EU.
>During this warring states period in Europe, states were
>small, and for much of the time lacked professional salaried
>civil services. There tax collecting apparatus was poor
>and they were not able to so effectively enforce the circulation
>of national coinage unless it was backed by gold that
>could be used in internal European trade between the petty

But how does this fit with how the late Roman economy which was
revolutionized in Banaji's account by securing a stable money--a  new
gold coinage which provided a means by which financially astute
bureaucrats could accumulate fortunes that they subsequently invested
in land. Note then Banaji's attempt to rewrite the history of late
antiquity--a new currency system in fact assisted the revival and
indeed an expansion of a monetized economy.

>This local and temporary historical phenomena is universalised
>in metallist doctrines.

What seems to me implied here is another explanation for one thing
enjoying a monopoly over direct exchangeability. If I understand you
Paul correctly, you are saying that thing does so as the singular
medium through which the state collects taxes. Money thus represents
the power of the state and in virtue of that becomes the singular
representative of abstract social labor time. But does it matter for
Marx's argument how that one thing comes to be the sole
representative of abstract social labor time, for once it is that for
whatever reason it then has the power to interrupt circulation, to
become the object of hoarding? And it is hoarded not as the medium
through which taxes will have to be paid but as the sole
representative of abstract social labor time.


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