Money as Social Power: The Economics of Scarcity and Working Class Reproduction
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Hampton, Matt. "Money as Social Power: The Economics of Scarcity and Working Class Reproduction." Capital & Class 37, no. 3 (10, 2013): 373-395.
This article suggests that commodity exchange mediated through the money-form is a fundamental moment in the process of forming the capitalist relations of exploitation and domination. Money is re-examined as a moment of social power to command living labour, enforcing the moment of alienation that gives rise to the fundamental commodity within capitalism – labour-power. This article argues that this power is not intrinsic to money, but exists via a socially constructed scarcity mediated through the dynamics of working class reproduction. The article finally suggests that this understanding of money as the power to command labour can be identified in economic theory from mercantilism to the marginal revolution and beyond.
efficient taste for luxuries and conveniences noted Malthus, ‘that is, such a taste as will properly stimulate industry, instead of being ready to appear the moment it is required is a plant of slow growth’, hence his support for the landed gentry (cited in Harvey 1985: 45). His disciples proved more optimistic however, Senior suggesting the desire to accumulate ‘the means of purchasing decencies which give a higher social rank’ enforces work and sexual discipline over the labouring poor. Human
impels the individual to alienate their ‘life expression’ (Marx 1990a: 259). Extending the circle of working class enjoyments simply strengthens the golden chains forged by the workers’ objectified alienated labour. Cotemporaneous to this ‘subjective turn’, however, was a more rigorous theorisation of the limits of the market as working class resistance to money’s despotic rule became Downloaded from cnc.sagepub.com by Pro Quest on November 26, 2013 388 Capital & Class 37(3) more organised
uphold the rational underpinnings of capitalist accumulation more rigorously, reintroducing a naturalised scarcity through the back door by modelling a static system in general equilibrium, while incorporating a methodology appropriate for this ‘new problem of “scarcity”’ (Meek 1976: 248). Assuming ‘no further possibility of increasing the total quantity of resources’, this methodology concentrated exclusively ‘on the possibilities of increasing economic welfare by a more efficient allocation of
problem facing economic science was not one of scarcity per se, but rather ‘the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty’ (Keynes 1942: 30). Moreover, the orthodox solution for reactivating faltering accumulation through further retrenchments in working class consumption was too ‘dangerous [an] enterprise in a society which is both capitalist and democratic’ (Keynes 1930: 385). Keynes instead argued that only an ‘Economics of Abundance’, not the socially imposed scarcity of neoclassical
money. Review of Political Economy 12(4): 435–51. Wordie J (1983) The chronology of English enclosure, 1500–1914. Economic History Review 36(4): 483–505. Wrightson K (2000) Earthly Necessities. New Haven: New Haven Publishing. Author biography Matt Hampton works as a financial sector regulator. He has previously published articles in Capital & Class and The Commoner. Downloaded from cnc.sagepub.com by Pro Quest on November 26, 2013