CHAPTER THREE

Individuals and agency:
Marx's vision

Commodities and money

Suppose we accept, for the moment, Marx's contentious claims that money is a commodity whose commensurability with other commodities is established 'in themselves' by means of their common property 'being the products of labour', just for the sake of noting the analytical principles he employs and the kind of conceptual structure he establishes for his concept of money. 1 Having explicated those principles it is of course open to us to consider, as a quite separate exercise, whether some similar conceptual structure can be found with respect to the more commonplace and less contentious claim that the commensurability of useful objects as commodities is established in terms of monetary value alone, which itself establishes equivalence, i.e. the conventional view in modern economics. For the moment I am asking readers to focus on the general character of Marx's analysis on the assumption that it does not stand or fall on an acceptance or rejection of a 'labour theory of value', generally regarded as the chief difference between Marx's work and most economics developed since his time (I address that issue in chapter four below).

Marx begins his analysis of money in conceptual terms as follows:

Everyone knows, if nothing else, that commodities have a common value-form which contrasts in the most striking manner with the motley natural forms of their use-values. I refer to the money-form. Now, however, we have to perform a task never even attempted by

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