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K. Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy

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piece, viz. that now the sixtieth
part of an ounce still be called a penny, may be done with what increase you please." In reply to
Lowndes's arguments, Locke declares that the rise of the market-price above the mint-price was not
brought about by an increase in the value of silver, but by a decrease in the weight of coins.
Seventy-seven clipped shillings did not weigh more than 62 shillings of standard weight. Finally Locke is
quite correct in emphasising that, irrespective of the loss of silver suffered by the coins in circulation, a
certain rise in the market-price of silver bullion over the mint-price might occur in England, because the
export of silver bullion was permitted whereas that of silver coin was prohibited (see op. cit., pp. 54-116
passim). Locke takes good care to avoid the vital issue of the National Debt, just as he equally prudently
refrains from discussing another ticklish economic problem, i.e., that according to the evidence of both
the exchange rate and the ratio of silver bullion to silver coin, the depreciation of the money in
circulation was by no means proportional to the amount of silver it lost. We shall return to this question
in its general form in the section dealing with the medium of circulation. In A discourse Concerning
Coining the New Money Lighter, in Answer to Mr. Locke's Considerations, London, 1696, Nicholas
Barbon vainly sought to entice Locke on to difficult ground.
2. Steuart, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 156.
3. The Querist, loc. cit. Incidentally, the section "Queries on Money" is rather witty. Among other things
it contains the true observation that the development of the North American colonies "makes it plain as
daylight, that gold and silver are not so necessary for the wealth of a nation, as the vulgar of all ranks
4. Steuart, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 102-07.
5. In connection with the last commercial crisis a certain faction in England ardently praised the ideal
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African money after moving its location on this occasion from the coast into the interior of Barbary. It
was declared that because their bars constituted an ideal measure, the Berbers had no commercial and
industrial crises. Would it not have been simpler to say that commerce and industry are the conditio sine
qua non for commercial and industrial crises?
6. The Currency Question, the Gemini Letters, London, 1844, pp. 266-72 passim.
7. John Gray, The Social System. A Treatise on the Principle of Exchange, Edinburgh, 1831. Cf. the
same author's Lectures on the Nature and Use of Money, Edinburgh, 1848. After the February
Revolution, Gray sent a memorandum to the French Provisional Government in which he explains that
France did not need an "organisation of labour" but an "organisation of exchange", the plan for which
was fully worked out in the Monetary System he had invented. The worthy John had no inkling that
sixteen years after the publication of The Social System, the ingenious Proudhon would be taking out a
patent for the same invention.
8. Gray, The Social System, p. 63. "Money should be merely a receipt, an evidence that the holder of it
has either contributed a certain value to the national stock of wealth, or that he has acquired a right to the
said value from some one who has contributed to it."
9. "An estimated value being previously put upon produce, let it be lodged in a bank, and drawn out
again whenever it is required, merely stipulating, by common consent, that he who lodges any kind of
property in the National Bank, may take out of it an equal value of whatever it may contain, instead of
being obliged to draw out the self-same thing that he put in." Op. cit., pp. 67-68.
10. "The business of every nation ought to be conducted on a national capital" (John Gray, The Social
System, p. 171).
11. "The land to be transformed into national property" (op. cit., p. 298.)
12. See, e.g., W. Thompson, "An Inquiry into the Distribution of Wealth, London, 1824; Bray, Labour's
Wrongs and Labour's Remedy, Leeds, 1839. 13. Alfred Darimon, De la réforme des banques, Paris,
1856, can be regarded as a compendium of this melodramatic monetary theory.
Table of Contents
Marxist Writers Archive
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Karl Marx's
2. Medium of Exchange
When, as a result of the establishing of prices, commodities have acquired the form in which they are
able to enter circulation and gold has assumed its function as money, the contradictions latent in the
exchange of commodities are both exposed and resolved by circulation. The real exchange of
commodities, that is the social metabolic process, constitutes a transformation in which the dual nature of
the commodity -- commodity as use-value and as exchange-value -- manifests itself; but the
transformation of the commodity itself is, at the same time, epitomised in certain forms of money. To
describe this transformation is to describe circulation. Commodities, as we have seen, constitute fully
developed exchange-value only when a world of commodities and consequently a really developed
system of division of labour is presupposed; in the same manner circulation presupposes that acts of
exchange are taking place everywhere and that they are being continuously renewed. It also presupposes
that commodities enter into the process of exchange with a determinate price, in other words that in the
course of exchange they appear to confront one another in a dual form -- really as use-values and
nominally (in the price) as exchange-values.
The busiest streets of London are crowded with shops whose show cases display all the riches of the
world, Indian shawls, American revolvers, Chinese porcelain, Parisian corsets, furs from Russia and
spices from the tropics, but all of these worldly things bear odious, white paper labels with Arabic
numerals and then laconic symbols £ s. d. This is how commodities are presented in circulation.
a. The Metamorphosis of Commodities
Closer examination shows that the circulation process comprises two distinct types of circuit. If
commodities are denoted by C and money by M, the two circuits may be represented in the following
C -- M -- C
M -- C -- M
In this section we are solely concerned with the first circuit, that is the one which directly expresses
commodity circulation.
The circuit C -- M -- C may be divided into the movement C -- M, the exchange of commodities for
money, or sale; the opposite movement M -- C, the exchange of money for commodities, or purchase;
and the unity of the two movements C -- M -- C, exchange of commodities for money so as to exchange
money for commodities, in other words, selling in order to purchase. The outcome in which the
transaction terminates is C -- C, i.e., exchange of one commodity for another, actual exchange of matter.
C -- M -- C, when considered from the point of departure of the first commodity, represents its
conversion into gold and its reconversion from gold into commodity; that is to say a movement in which
at the outset the commodity appears as a particular use-value, then sheds this form of existence and
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assumes that of exchange-value or universal equivalent -- which is entirely distinct from its natural form
-- finally it sheds this as well and emerges as a real use-value which can serve particular needs. In this
last form it drops out of the sphere of circulation and enters that of consumption. Thus to begin with, the
whole circuit of C -- M -- C represents the entire series of metamorphoses through which every
individual commodity passes in order to become a direct use-value for its owner. The first