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K. Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy

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in the same way as during the purchase the
money brings about the circulation of the commodity. Since moreover money always confronts
commodities as a means of purchase and as such causes commodities to move merely by realising their
prices, the entire movement of circulation appears to consist of money changing places with commodities
by realising their prices either in separate transactions which occur simultaneously, side by side, or
successively when the same coin realises the prices of different commodities one after another. If, for
example, one examines C -- M -- C' -- M -- C" -- M -- C"', etc., and disregards the qualitative aspects,
which become unrecognisable in actual circulation, there emerges only the same monotonous operation.
After realising the price of C, M successively realises the prices of C', C", etc., and the commodities C',
C", C''', etc., invariably take the place vacated by money. It thus appears that money causes the
circulation of commodities by realising their prices. While it serves to realise prices, money itself
circulates continuously, sometimes moving merely to a different place, at other times tracing a curve or
describing a small cycle in which the points of departure and of return are identical. As a medium of
circulation it has a circulation of its own. The movement and changing forms of the circulating
commodities thus appear as the movement of money mediating the exchange of commodities, which are
in themselves immobile. The movement of the circulation process of commodities is therefore
represented by the movement of money as the medium of circulation, i.e., by the circulation of money.
Just as commodity-owners presented the products of individual labour as products of social labour, by
transforming a thing, i.e., gold, into the direct embodiment of labour-time in general and therefore into
money, so now their own universal movement by which they bring about the exchange of the material
elements of their labour confronts them as the specific movement of a thing, i.e., as the circulation of
gold. The social movement is for the commodity owners on the one hand an external necessity and on the
other merely a formal intermediary process enabling each individual to obtain different use-values of the
same total value as that of the commodities which he has thrown into circulation. The commodity begins
to function as a use-value when it leaves the sphere of circulation, whereas the use-value of money as a
means of circulation consists in its very circulation. The movement of the commodity in the sphere of
circulation is only an insignificant factor, whereas perpetual rotation within this sphere becomes the
function of money. The specific function which it fulfils within circulation gives money as the medium
of circulation a new and distinctive aspect, which now has to be analysed in more detail.
First of all, it is evident that the circulation of money is an infinitely divided movement, for it reflects the
infinite fragmentation of the process of circulation into purchases and sales, and the complete separation
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of the complementary phases of the metamorphosis of commodities. It is true that a recurrent movement,
real circular motion, takes place in the small circuits of money in which the point of departure and the
point of return are identical; but in the first place, there are as many points of departure as there are
commodities, and their indefinite multitude balks any attempt to check, measure and compute these
circuits. The time which passes between the departure from and the return to the starting point is equally
uncertain. It is, moreover, quite irrelevant whether or not such a circuit is described in a particular case.
No economic fact is more widely known than that somebody may spend money without receiving it
back. Money starts its circuit from an endless multitude of points and returns to an endless multitude of
points, but the coincidence of the point of departure and the point of return is fortuitous, because the
movement C -- M -- C does not necessarily imply that the buyer becomes a seller again. It would be even
less correct to depict the circulation of money as a movement which radiates from one centre to all points
of the periphery and returns from all the peripheral points to the same centre. The so-called circuit of
money, as people imagine it, simply amounts to the fact that the appearance of money and its
disappearance, its perpetual movement from one place to another, is everywhere visible. When
considering a more advanced form of money used to mediate circulation, e.g., bank-notes, we shall find
that the conditions governing the issue of money determine also its reflux. But as regards simple money
circulation it is a matter of chance whether a particular buyer becomes a seller once again. Where actual
circular motions are taking place continuously in the sphere of simple money circulation, they merely
reflect the more fundamental processes of production, for instance, with the money which the
manufacturer receives from his banker on Friday he pays his workers on Saturday, they immediately
hand over the larger part of it to retailers, etc., and the latter return it to the banker on Monday.
We have seen that money simultaneously realises a given sum of prices comprising the motley purchases
and sales which coexist in space, and that it changes places with each commodity only once. But, on the
other hand, in so far as the movements of complete metamorphoses of commodities and the
concatenation of these metamorphoses are reflected in the movement of money, the same coin realises
the prices of various commodities and thus makes a larger or smaller number of circuits. Hence, if we
consider the process of circulation in a country during a definite period, for instance a day, then the
amount of gold required for the realisation of prices and accordingly for the circulation of commodities is
determined by two factors: on the one hand, the sum total of prices and, on the other hand, the average
number of circuits which the individual gold coins make. The number of circuits or the velocity of
money circulation is in its turn determined by, or simply reflects, the average velocity of the commodities
passing through the various phases of their metamorphosis, the speed with which the metamorphoses
constituting a chain follow one another, and the speed with which new commodities are thrown into
circulation to replace those that have completed their metamorphosis. Whereas during the determination
of prices the exchange-value of all commodities is nominally turned into a quantity of gold of the same
value and in the two separate transactions, M -- C and C -- M, the same value exists twice, on the one
hand in the shape of commodities and on the other in the form of gold; yet gold as a medium of
circulation is determined not by its isolated relation to individual static commodities, but by its dynamic
existence in the fluid world of commodities. The function of gold is to represent the transformation of
commodities by its changes of place, in other words to indicate the speed of their transformation by the
speed with which it moves from one point to another. Its function in the process as a whole thus
determines the actual amount of gold in circulation, or the actual quantity which circulates.
Commodity circulation is the prerequisite of money circulation; money, moreover, circulates
commodities which have prices, that is commodities which have already been equated nominally with
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definite quantities of gold. The determination of the prices of commodities presupposes that the value of
the quantity of gold which serves as the standard measure, or the value of gold, is given. According to
this assumption,