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 Post subject: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:06 am 
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Money – the “real community” [1]

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“Money is the real community, since it is the general substance of survival for all, and at the same time the social product of all.” “The reciprocal and all-sided dependence of individuals who are indifferent to one another forms their social connection. This social bond is expressed in exchange value, by means of which alone each individual’s own activity or his product becomes an activity and a product for him. He must produce a general product – exchange value, or, the latter isolated for itself and individualized, money. On the other side, the power which each individual exercises over the activity of others or over social wealth exists in him as the owner of exchange values, of money. The individual carries his social power, as well as his bond with society, in his pocket.” (Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin, p. 225, 156-7)


The bourgeois community does not accept the banal materialist truth about its social bond: It does not like to let itself be reduced to the self-seeking interaction of business-minded “bourgeois.” Even in the age of “globalization” and “unfettered markets” and a state budgetary policy which treats the “common people” as an overall barely affordable cost factor, it sees itself rather as a “community of values” in a higher, not at all pecuniary sense. One has and values a Christian-occidental “culture”; enlightened citizens attend to public affairs using a domination-free discourse; free peoples democratically determine their own destiny ... The idealistic self-interpretations of “western” style bourgeois society do not go so far that one would terminate in their name respect for the dogma that all economic activity has the inherent character of objective constraints, let alone the claims about “objective constraints” by the agents of the ruling economy themselves. However, recognition of immutable economic objective constraints should by no means be understood as an objection to the belief in the higher principles and deeper meaning of the bourgeois-democratic social bond. The lower and higher values, proper to their “spheres” in each case, co-exist quite peacefully. Very consistently, however, this ideal separation of the social “spheres” is of course not then upheld; “somehow” “the material side” is rather ubiquitous and quite significant; in the end, surveys of the way of the world happily boil down to platitudes like “money makes the world go round.” When it indulges in aesthetic resignation and illusionless sarcasm, the bourgeois “mainstream culture” does not give up the idea that this should not be true even if it really is, hence that the materialism of money is not the whole truth about the bourgeois community.

And in one sense, it is surely justified – even if it is certainly not meant in this way: money does not “make the world go round.” The “community of values” of free citizens is already involved in it. However, neither in such a way as if they had decided to introduce “free market” relations after careful consideration and a thorough impact assessment; nor in the sense that modern “civil society” forgets its higher values and sheer greed ensues. Especially in their value-consciousness, modern citizens display a will for a state by which they acknowledge – freely and critically, as is proper – the need for a public authority and accept and affirm the universal social relations of force that have no other substance than mandatory requirements for a bourgeois existence. And among these officially guaranteed decrees, a fundamental, critical importance for the system inheres in those that establish a “reciprocal and all-sided dependence of individuals who are indifferent to one another,” namely a “social bond” by subjugation under the regime of money.

Notes

[1] This is a translation of an essay from Das Geld: Von den vielgepriesenen Leistungen des schnöden Mammons by Wolfgang Möhl and Theo Wentzke [Munich: GegenStandpunkt Verlag, 2007]. This essay summarizes some basic remarks in The National Budget: On the Economy of Political Domination from the Marxist journal GegenStandpunkt 4-97. It includes three supplements consisting of responses by the editors to critical letters about it.

http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/realcommunity.htm

1. Money & Force: The exclusionary power of property as thing. http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/moneyandforce.htm

2. Money & work: The economic command power of property. http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/moneyandwork.htm

Supplement 1: “How can paper money be the measure of value?” http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/papermoney.htm
Supplement 2: The measure of capitalist wealth: “Surplus labor-time” http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/surpluslabortime.htm
Supplement 3: Basic remarks about money and force, currency and gold http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/currencygold.htm


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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:56 am 
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TFM wrote:
All you've done here is copy and paste an article from some website. What point are you trying to make and how do you intend to actually engage other members here?


Oh dear. What trees do they plant? Clearly the point being made is the point in the article-- money. If the OP added "comment and discuss" would that make any difference?

The article is posted to engage, precipitate, perhaps even inspire some discussion. Now perhaps this subject of this heavy metal is not quite as entertaining as discussions of other heavy metal, or not quite as titillating as the loss of maleness as the highest stage of capitalism, but it certainly is a worthwhile subject and discussion to have.

The responsibility for engagement isn't on the OP, who presented the subject for discussion, but upon the readers. You might want to ask the rest of the Red Marx members why they don't seem to respond very well to exactly the sort of "theoretical" issues Red Marx was initially organized to discuss.

Now as for the article itself: Woefully inaccurate and inadequate, particularly given the self-justifications, glorification of capital since when? Reagan? Thatcher? Deng's Four Reforms? Value at Risk? Structured Investment Vehicles? Pick one or all.

The bourgeoisie have been rolling in their community not-values but of value. Gloating is their compassion. Venality their charity. And they are quite explicit about this.

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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:00 am 
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TFM wrote:
It isn't particularly hard to pose a specific question (or several) to the audience, which is what the thread starter probably should have done.


What the OP should have done is immaterial. What the OP did do was post a text about money and "community" or maybe value and values that addresses a topic, issue,, reproducing a text, and is not promotion of an ideology. That's perfectly acceptable

TFM wrote:
Don't even try and insinuate that I think this subject isn't worthy of discussion.


Oh dear, sorry didn't see the high horse you rode in on. If I had, I would have told you to get off it.

I'm not insinuating anything. I never insinuate. I don't know if you consider the subject worthy of discussion, and I could care even less. The issue you brought up was, remember, engagement. The issue, in reality, is lack of engagement with these topics. That's not the OP's responsibility.

Whether you consider it worthwhile to discuss this treatment of money will become more or less transparent as the topic develops...if it develops.

As I read the article, the bourgeoisie somehow appear reticent to proclaim the virtue of their system of value, of their valuation of all human interaction by its contribution, or not, to the accumulation, the preservation of dead labor. I don't think they are the least bit nonplussed by the griminess of their everyday life; nothing's closer to godliness than a fat bankroll which is the gun in their pocket that truly means they are happy to see you.

Okay, you can get back on the horse you rode in on now.

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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:07 pm 
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Quote:
money is the organizer of the spontaneous process of exchange of things, and together with this also the organizer of human relations.


from this good text: http://libcom.org/library/quantity-theo ... y-s-legezo

The supplements posted by Klaus (particularly the one on gold) were critiqued (by me) here; http://libcom.org/forums/theory/exchang ... 012?page=1

edit - also here; http://libcom.org/forums/theory/id-mone ... ent-467989


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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:10 pm 
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But we are not going to argue about money-commodity vs. fiat-money, are we?

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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:25 pm 
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This detail of gold is actually of key importance and a distinction of Marx with Ricardian labour theories of Proudhon, Lassalle or the American Edward Kellogg. In Marx's critique of Gray's money scheme he seems more to think along the lines of Mill; http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archiv ... 12713.html
Quote:
[In the 2nd ed. (1849) was inserted the following section, which did not disappear till the 5th ed. (1862):
"§ 4. One of the most transparent of the fallacies by which the principle of the convertibility of paper money has been assailed, is that which pervades a recent work by Mr. John Gray, Lectures on the Nature and Use of Money: the author of the most ingenious, and least exceptionable plan of an inconvertible currency which I have happened to meet with. This writer has seized several of the leading doctrines of political economy with no ordinary grasp, and among others, the important one, that commodities are the real market for commodities, and that Production is essentially the cause and measure of Demand. But this proposition, true in a state of barter, he affirms to be false under a monetary system regulated by the precious metals, because if the aggregate of goods is increased faster than the aggregate of money, prices must fall, and all producers must be losers; now neither gold nor silver, nor any other valuable thing, 'can by any possibility be increased ad libitum, as fast as all other valuable things put together:' a limit, therefore, is arbitrarily set to the amount of production which can take place without loss to the producers: and on this foundation Mr. Gray accuses the existing system of rendering the produce of this country less by at least one hundred million pounds annually, than it would be under a currency which admitted of expansion in exact proportion to the increase of commodities.

"But, in the first place, what hinders gold, or any other commodity whatever, from being 'increased as fast as all other valuable things put together?' If the produce of the world, in all commodities taken together, should come to be doubled, what is to prevent the annual produce of gold from being doubled likewise? for that is all that would be necessary, and not (as might be inferred from Mr. Gray's language) that it should be doubled as many times over as there are other 'valuable things' to compare it with. Unless it can be proved that the production of bullion cannot be increased by the application of increased labour and capital, it is evident that the stimulus of an increased value of the commodity will have the same effect in extending the mining operations, as it is admitted to have in all other branches of production.

"But, secondly, even if the currency could not be increased at all, and if every addition to the aggregate produce of the country must necessarily be accompanied by a proportional diminution of general prices; it is incomprehensible how any person who has attended to the subject can fail to see that a fall of price, thus produced, is no loss to producers: they receive less money; but the smaller amount goes exactly as far, in all expenditure, whether productive or personal, as the larger quantity did before. The only difference would be in the increased burthen of fixed money payments; and of that (coming, as it would, very gradually) a very small portion would fall on the productive classes, who have rarely any debts of old standing, and who would suffer almost solely in the increased onerousness of their contribution to the taxes which pay the interest of the National Debt."]


As for political side, all Marxists saw the necessity of a "gold standard". Trotsky; (I think this text was originally in the form of a dialogue between a Russian and American worker) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1934/08/ame.htm

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Your almighty dollar will play a principal part in making your new soviet system work. It is a great mistake to try to mix a “planned economy” with a “managed currency.” Your money must act as regulator with which to measure the success or failure of your planning.

Your “radical” professors are dead wrong in their devotion to “managed money.” It is an academic idea that could easily wreck your entire system of distribution and production. That is the great lesson to be derived from the Soviet Union, where bitter necessity has been converted into official virtue in the monetary realm.

There the lack of a stable gold ruble is one of the main causes of our many economic troubles and catastrophes. It is impossible to regulate wages, prices and quality of goods without a firm monetary system. An unstable ruble in a Soviet system is like having variable molds in a conveyor-belt factory. It won’t work.

Only when socialism succeeds in substituting administrative control for money will it be possible to abandon a stable gold currency. Then money will become ordinary paper slips, like trolley or theater tickets. As socialism advances, these slips will also disappear, and control over individual consumption – whether by money or administration – will no longer be necessary when there is more than enough of everything for everybody!

Such a time has not yet come, though America will certainly reach it before any other country. Until then, the only way to reach such a state of development is to retain an effective regulator and measure for the working of your system. As a matter of fact, during the first few years a planned economy needs sound money even more than did old-fashioned capitalism. The professor who regulates the monetary unit with the aim of regulating the whole business system is like the man who tried to lift both his feet off the ground at the same time.


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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:48 pm 
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One of Trotsky's greater weaknesses was not so much his grasp on "economics" but the fact that a socialist revolution is about abolishing capital, the social relation organizing production as capital, that is to say alienated labor, which alienated labor Marx says money specifically embodies.

Trotsky makes a fine argument for those who would argue that at heart he proposed with his "political revolution" in the fSU a more "rational" state capitalism.

I'm very, very unsure about the money-commodity argument. Doesn't mean the argument is wrong, but as the case of Trotsky proves, the arguments are lame, and are about nothing so much as preserving the measure of alienated, expropriated wage-labor.

As for Mills' comments: the issue is not of course that gold production has to double to match the doubling of output otherwise the capitalists will accrue real losses.

The question is, does paper money have to maintain an official fixed rate of exchange with gold? Can a currency that remains exchangeable with gold in any, and changing, proportions in open markets as well as government "closed exchanges" function as money?

Is the "excess" of paper money over gold reserves significant in any way shape or form to the trends, directions of the bourgeois economy?

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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:34 pm 
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Quote:
The question is, does paper money have to maintain an official fixed rate of exchange with gold


Does paper money - today - have an official fixed rate of exchange with gold? As far as I know it ain't so. The Euro at least has no fixed rate of exchange with anything. And that we have to explain.


So long,

Klaus

(Why do you quote Trotskys idea about a planned economy? 'Das Kapital' is not a manual for a socialist society.)


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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:04 pm 
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I don't see what the problem is in the lack of a fixed rate of exchange. Say the Euro was tomorrow legally proclaimed to be the name for 0.02 gram of gold (in an inconvertible gold standard system). Then you could ask is the Euro really worth 0.02 grams of gold, or is it worth "in reality" perhaps only 0.01 grams of gold? How do you know? What does it matter? If it doesn't matter in such case, then what does it matter if there is no official denomination?

I quote Trotsky against all those leftwing Keynesian "marxist" professors who openly are proposing or defending state policy (how harmless is the gold bug in comparison). Trotsky also understands from Kapital that you won't abolish capitalism by destroying money (which is something capitalism already is doing itself), Pol Pot style or by inventing some kind of dis-solvable money (against accumulation) like David Harvey does after Proudhon.


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 Post subject: Re: Money – the “real community”
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:50 pm 
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The translation on this is rather awkward, so it's hard to comment on the piece as a whole. At the same time, though, if I'm reading it right, what it seems to be getting at by statements like, "The bourgeois community does not accept the banal materialist truth about its social bond: It does not like to let itself be reduced to the self-seeking interaction of business-minded “bourgeois," is the idea that despite the bourgeois rhetoric of 'greed, 'self-interest' and 'human nature,' (the latter one I'm sure everyone here is familiar with), the bourgeoisie also cannot wholly accept this nihilistic, irrationalist view if they are to portray capitalism as positive. A philosophical analogue for this would be the criticism of nihilism for its inability to justify any particular conscious choice or action, so that consciously choosing any such action, or even not to act, would imply a positive value departed from nihilism.

On a slightly more relevant note, 'ethical egoism' and related exaltations of greed ultimately end up having issues with the fact that, from each individual's perspective, what would be in their own interest would be everyone else acting in their interests (hence altruistically) - however, if 'self-interest' is a good, then this means that making others act in one's own interests would be violating the self-interest of another, and so contradicting one's own belief that people ought to act in their own self-interests. The general attempt to justify this is saying that in a rational society different people acting in their self-interests do not conflict but in reality serve the general interest (see: 'meritocracy,' superstition about the free market), at which point it becomes unclear why we don't call the theory 'ethical altruism.' In general, an ethics of 'self-interest' can only be justified by reference to the social interest. The actual content of 'egoism' comes down to the idea that people have to tell themselves that they are acting in their 'self-interest' in practice, despite their actions only being justifiable in terms of the social interest - that is, while the ethicist may know the justification behind their actions, other people have to act in ignorance of it, rather than consciously seeking to realise it (ie. irrationally). This corresponds to the actual bourgeois reality, where people are, "indifferent to one another," and to their social relations, acting rather in their 'own interests,' but nonetheless are supposed to support the social interest unconsciously. So the invisible hand and such. Hence, at once you have the rhetoric of 'greed' and 'selfishness,' and at the same time the sacrifice of each 'egoistic' individual inadvertently to the general interest which he neither knows nor is in control of.

In short, the article seems to be pointing out that capitalism at once, when in its, "aesthetic resignation and illusionless sarcasm" (incidentally, though I can't be sure of the exact phrase due to it being translated, 'aesthetic resignation' seems very much apt to describe a form of rhetoric which is very much a matter of aesthetic appeal more than theoretical value), puts forward capitalism as a realm and result of irrationality and atomised egoism on the one hand, and on the other hand as a rational society and one which serves the common interests (class collaborationism, the idea of a common social interest served through capital, 'meritocracy,' etc.) Given the piece's overall tilt, I don't think that the point of the article is to deny that the bourgeoisie are capable of more or less plainspoken defences of their system and interests*, but what the article seems to be getting at is that these always end up co-existing with attempts to ideologise or universalise the validity of these relations through all society. The attempt to put forward capitalist interests as universally valid ends up with bourgeois rhetoric, as well as the state, having to identify the interests of capital with that of society, the nation, etc., and this leads them to a contradiction which this piece at least seems to relate back to the contradiction of the 'bourgeois-democratic' state.

It would seem valid to notice that this identification of capital with both society and productivity forms a limiting force both to bourgeois ideology and economics, and that ultimately no matter how blatantly the bourgeoisie defend their interests they cannot be wholly 'free of illusions' (they become neither political nor economic Marxists); even in these more cynical defences of capitalist interests there still resides, looking slightly deeper, the idea that these interests are good, (Kant was one-sided, but so is self-interest, and so his arguments have a validity in this context), and that this is true on a rational and universally normative level, so that any attempts to expand from this into a theoretical or ideological paradigm will necessarily contain the contradiction identified in the article. Bourgeois thought, from economics to philosophy and politics, can only go so far before simply erecting a new set of illusions. So yes, a capitalist can well justify a given action of theirs in terms of their self-interest, but any attempt to expand this into a worldview or to bring out the premises implicit in it will necessarily be ideologising rather than honest.

(* Indeed, this point seems to be saying the opposite: "Very consistently, however, this ideal separation of the social “spheres” is of course not then upheld; “somehow” “the material side” is rather ubiquitous and quite significant; in the end, surveys of the way of the world happily boil down to platitudes like “money makes the world go round.” In other words, the economic side of things always ends up in a superior position relative to the supposedly 'higher values' which bourgeois society erects to justify itself. This takes place quite concretely in the state, a realm of ideology where in the end economic interests determine action. Even economic theories can be bourgeois in orientation, because they originate from an economic interest and standpoint without realising it.)

Even in the case of Reagan and Thatcher, there was an attempt to foist an image of society as a whole onto the nation, and this has had a strong influence on political thought and rhetoric since their time - indeed, the idea that the interests of the bourgeoisie or of 'greed' are somehow a) just and b) advance the interests of the whole nation (both inherent in popular ideas of meritocracy, or even the view that the bourgeoisie are as they are due to superior genes/personal traits/etc.), and that the working class were somehow being overly selfish and harming the latter through their own struggles were more or less necessary for people like Thatcher. Of course, the artificial collectivism of nationalism - which is if anything a clear attempt at denying class interests - was also important to the era. While the political 'thought' of both leaders would have to be treated more as a Humean series of images than an actual attempt at using a brain, nonetheless these images were generally based around normalising the bourgeois order and arose from the latter, such that they also fall into the general contradiction of the bourgeois state and ideology.

Of course, in the end these ideologies and justifying frameworks are based upon concrete interests which underlie them and which they do not understand, but nonetheless nobody thinks of themselves as irrational and likewise the bourgeoisie must have their elaborate dressings if they are to give their actions ideological or theoretical form.* Like the Apostles, we must be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves, and hence note, as this article seems to be implying, that bourgeois cynicism can never really go far enough due to its implicit attempt at apologism and normativising bourgeois interests, and therefore reveal that even beneath the rhetoric of 'greed' and 'flawed human nature' there rests not so much an attempt at universal truth as the expression of a certain, quite particular interest. Bourgeois self-criticism ends where proletariat criticism begins. At the same time, proletarian criticism seeks not to promulgate cynicism or apathy, but to take the cynicism of the bourgeoisie and convert it into a practical critique of a transitory social system.

(* 'I support my interests as a capitalist because **** the proletariat!' 'Why **** the proletariat?' 'Well, because they're lazy/undeserving/etc.', and so ideology comes along in good time. The real, concrete answer is, of course, 'Because my wife is a dull bourgeois.')

-

Given that, as said, the translation makes the piece slightly hard to read, I thought it might be worth trying to explain what seems to be the general drift of the second paragraph, which can be a bit unwieldy at first. Now, the basic idea which was elaborated at the end of the first paragraph was that the bourgeoisie on the one hand do come to realise, at times, the dominance of economic phenomena in bourgeois life - that 'money makes the world go round' - but at the same time also seek to rationalise modern society by drawing on 'higher,' more universal values than merely the economy. Hence, not only does money make the world go round, but the world actually has higher reasons to follow money, such as freedom, that it serves the social interest, etc. (Indeed, utilitarianism only really has much meaning in justifying a context where actors systematically act so as to cause consequences which they do not intend.) However, according to this piece, there is nonetheless a truth in both sides of bourgeois apologism which it cannot itself grasp, including even the side which attempts to portray 'higher values' as existing in the bourgeois framework above the lower ones of the economy.

According to the piece, the intuition that money does not quite 'make the world go round,' although generally an attempt to apologise for bourgeois society by obscuring its bourgeois, inhuman character, actually has a truth to it, although, "it is certainly not meant in this way." Money in itself, as an object, cannot 'make the world go round' actively - rather, the so-called 'community of values,' ie. people's values and intentions, are the only active, subjective force per se. The influence of money already presupposes human action, money does not itself influence humans as an autonomous power. So far, the bourgeois intuition is correct. However, the article then goes on to qualify that this does not in fact happen in the idealistic way that it is usually portrayed. For most defences of the 'free market,' the attempt is made to make this market seem rational and operative in the interests of society, giving us one form by which real bourgeois relations and interests are sublimated to 'higher' moral realms. This, if it were integrated with the view of money as not itself an active power, would imply that the community of values is already involved in money insofar as it evolves from a rational set of values which leads to the free market, and hence that money is subjugated to human beings through being a result of their conscious insights. Money does not make the world go round, because it serves human reason and intentions.

The other side of the coin, when it comes to 'moral' analyses of money's basis, is that which is criticised as holding, "that modern “civil society” forgets its higher values and sheer greed ensues:" in other words, that money does not make the world go round because its dominance is simply a result and manifestation of human greed, in other words that the material mode of production is merely a result of moral degeneration. This latter perspective is at least more consistent with the nature of money - where, in society, people are precisely to be 'egoistic' and ignorant of what their own actions accomplish - but at the same time it also fails to see the positive aspect of the movement by which 'that which is sacred is profaned,' and so ends up fairly reactionary in orientation.

However, for Marxism, while both of these viewpoints are quite clearly false and abstract from the real manner in which money dominates over individuals in modern society, at the same time there is a fundamental truth in both of them. Money is not in itself an active force, but only becomes one due to the alienated nature of human activity - in other words, the power of money is a human product, but not one of human reason or morals so much as of human action. The power of money is simply a result of social relations formed between humans, and which may be changed by humans. Money doesn't move worlds, people do. At the same time, under the capitalist system it is nonetheless the case that money dominates man, which takes shape for Marx in the contradiction between the capitalist production process and the simple labour process. Although it's somewhat vague on it, this kind of phenomenon seems to be what the article is getting at at the end, namely the fact that in reality the 'community of values' does have an active role, but only insofar as it involves the continuation of the current system where money does in fact make the world go round, and that this nature of money's domination as a human product means that it is nonetheless subject to human relations which are under human control.

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