Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

The Process of Exchange from Phenomenological Perspective

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

The Process of Exchange from Phenomenological Perspective

Article excerpt

I.

There is a very hilarious Polish tale for children about an old man who spends his life exchanging precious things for those worth much less. Every time the old man notices an object that he does not know and possess, he (or she) is eager to get it by every possible means. Actually, he (she) is willing to exchange every precious thing that was dear to him before in order to have the new one. His (her) desire for something new makes him forget all other things that he desperately wanted before.

This short essay will be an attempt to analyze the exchange of money and commodities in terms of framework offered by phenomenology. Apparently, exchange may seem to be a process which, despite its elaborate practical implementation, is relatively simple to define. Unfortunately enough, even this simple Polish tale reveals its complexity. Exchange can be understood and described from different dimensions, similarly to money that is generally considered to fulfill at least three different functions (medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value). There have been many historical arguments regarding the functions of exchange, but not many of them examined this process from the phenomenological perspective. For this reason, among many others, Karl Marx's approach to this issue of exchange is so innovative, even in terms of contemporary research. Capital is an utterly phenomenological work in the Hegelian sense of this notion. Marx conceptualizes phenomenology as a method of exposing the real-world phenomena that is prior to abstract philosophical inquiry. In the first volume of Capital Marx introduces explanatory categories of the German Idealism to "purely" economical and social issues. I will mainly refer to chapters: 2 - The Process of Exchange, 3 - Money, or the Circulation of Commodities, and 4 - The General Formula for Capital, where Marx examines the "why?' and "how?" of the exchange by means of a phenomenological analysis of the activity of exchange commodities. In this sense his analysis is close to the one which can be found in Michel Foucault's The Order of Things, particularly its 6th chapter, Exchanging, where Foucault deals with the notion of wealth and elaborates changing relations between money and prices between 15th and late 17th century, as well as such issues as mercantilism, utility and creation of value. There are significant differences between Marx's and Foucault's approach. Foucault main aim is to answer the question of what it means to exchange and how it contributes to the establishment of the modem subject. In order to trace the establishment of subject he attempts to reconstmct orders of knowledge. Whereas his analysis is oriented towards the hermeneutics and deconstmction of the notion itself, Marx is mainly preoccupied with the description of the activity of exchanging and its consequences. However, even though conclusions of Capital and The Order of Things differ significantly, the method of analysis reveals many similarities. Thus, both texts operate with a stmcture of deeper understanding of exchange as a multi-layer process of signification, accumulation, and transformation. Even though Foucault is mainly preoccupied in reconstmction of episteme that leads to subjectivity of homo oeconomicus, and Marx is reconstmcting how exchange took place and what it meant for various political and social systems, both Marx and Foucault reveal phenomenological approach to exchange. They look at it as a complex unity of phenomena that can be understood, analyzed on a deeper philosophical level as long as one suspends beliefs concerning its inevitability in social life. This phenomenological thinking about exchange will be at the center of my comparative analysis.

The aim of this essay is to reconstmct and compare some of the aspects of the process of exchange as described by Marx and Foucault and to point out new directions in which a careful analysis of their works may lead. The closing passage of the essay shall indicate an additional possible understanding the process of exchange, which is deeply enrooted in their philosophical framework, however not explicitly mentioned by either of the authors. …

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