Academic journal article Capital & Class

Money and Exchange

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Money and Exchange

Article excerpt


The object before us is capitalist production and reproduction. Given that social production here is located in dissociated enterprises, commodity exchange is the most general mediation that secures association. Commodities are doubly constituted as use values and as values, and the process of their exchange realises both determinations at the same time. However, the procedure I adopt here is to treat the issues separately (as does Marx). In the first part of this paper, the problems of exchange are bracketed: it is assumed that all commodities are exchangeable as such. This is in order to focus on the formal conditions of existence of value relations. In the second part, the problem of the realisation of value in exchange is addressed. Even if commodities are formed as values, the problem of their exchange as values arises because there is no point in exchanging equivalents. Exchange of equivalent values is mediated in exchange of different use values. It will be shown that this use-value condition of existence of value transactions throws up obstacles to the free movement of commodities.

In beginning both sections without money, I do not rely in any way upon historical considerations. Going back behind money is a purely conceptual move that leaves intact certain social presuppositions, such as a fully commodified system of production, which historically could only have arisen together with the development of money. The use of this expositional strategy enables us to identify the nature and the logical necessity of money to the existent system, in which the product typically takes a commodity form. This is the main thrust of the paper.

The importance of money

The issues dealt with in the bulk of this paper may seem to turn on minutiae. However, what is at stake in rightly characterising money at the most abstract level is of great importance when account is taken of the enormous impact of money and its movements on the totality of capitalist relations. Capitalism is essentially a monetary system, and as it has developed this has become more, not less the case. (It is true that in this paper I follow Marx in deriving a commodity money, and I do not mention credit money and flat money. Nonetheless, this is a necessary stage in the exposition of the concept of money, and it allows us to advance certain fundamental theses about it.)

In particular (and this is part of the burden of my polemic, below, against the Uno school), it is crucial to distinguish between theories of money in which it is figured as a passive mediator of other forces, and theories of 'active' money in which, as finance, it initiates the hegemonic circuit of the capitalist economy and, as 'abstract wealth', sets itself as the aim of that circuit. Money rules. This is because it is the form in which capital, as self-valorising value, measures itself against itself. Here, I find the logic of money as 'active' money at its very source, in the dialectic of the value form.

Value-form theory

The present paper, then, covers only the themes that Marx addresses in Capital volume 1, chapter 1, section 3; and in chapter 2 of the same volume. However, while I endorse Marx's strategy in separating these discussions, I treat the themes in my own way. Thus, with respect to the transition from the expanded form of value to the general form presented by Marx in chapter I, I advance a thoroughly 'dialecticised' account, drawing on Hegel's logical categories of 'force' and 'expression'. This argument allows me to offer some insights into the nature of money as 'the actuality of value' that anticipates its commanding role in developed capitalism. With respect to Marx's chapter on 'The process of exchange', I offer what I believe to be a more rigorous statement than his of the logical problems implicit in it (while silently accepting his historical speculations about the origin of money). I argue that money's function as 'means of purchase' logically presupposes its definition as value in autonomous form. …

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