Recap: Sinful Debt and Magic Money

By November 13, 2015BlogPost

A group of fifteen people was in time to listen to a workshop/lecture followed by a workshop of the From Alchemy to Mechanics: Sinful Debt and Magic Money. A couple of questions in the Q&A revolving around the notion of surplus value in Marx’s analysis tempt me to make a short statement. Here is what I said about it in my lecture:

Since any talk about money would be meaningless without mentioning Marx let me spare some moments for him. Since Ricardo is still a giant ghost of economic theory, it is important to know how Marx brought him low. Ricardo had insisted on the matching of work and product leaving the workers at the subsistence level of Malthus. Marx noted that there was a making of profit out of the work process.

Surplus value results from the private use of the entire superstructure of social services. All the human institutions that had been built to serve the common good could now be channeled into private pockets. It was Machiavelli who spotted the moral metamorphoses in the translation of honour into cash when Marx saw money as the magical transformer of all things whatever to money prices. This was the beginning of the end of hardware money.

By concentrating on the new dehumanising and specialising market of the industrial age, Marx mistook the new service environments as mere crumbs for the poor from the table of the riches.

And by the time Marx selected the “class struggle” as his catch-phrase the average worker of 19th century England was confronted with public services that far exceeded what private wealth alone could buy. Their concern was with the struggle between the “forces of production” as the “material basis” and the “relations of production”.

It might be enough to point out that by the 17the century, Kind Ludwig XIV had viewer commodities pilling up in his palace then the average worker of 19ht century England did have in his apartment. The word commodities is stressed. Kind Ludwig had of course no uniform products geared for consumption that came attached with uniform prices. Everything was handmade and on-demand. He did not have a railway nor the freedom to step down and become a carpenter. Marx could have focused on these facts rather then stay locked into the spirit of his age.

Today we see the result of fragmentation and specialisation as creating a Garden of Eating without human labour. There are factories that produce so much with so few employees that even those are getting fired and replaced by smart robots. The supermarket shelves of our consumer world are not merely the “crumbs for the poor” from the table of the riches. They are a guaranteed environments as much as loyalty towards a feudal lord was seen as “given” under his mandate from heaven. Today’s mandate from heaven is advertisement. It is a sanctioned social institution to adjust consumer preferences to ever new commodified modes of existences. And it is tax deductible! Marx did not see the trees because of the forrest. He became the lumberjack in Bonanza-land like Don Quichot became the tragic hero of a world that was remade in his day.

For a valuable and more in depth analysis of this point I am glad to have found the Lyn Marcus Dialectical Economics. For those who do not know the name it is worth remembering that he published his Magnus Opus under a pseudonym. His real name is Lyndon LaRouche who was US presidential candidate in each election from 1976-2004.


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