Monday, December 2, 2013

Money Wisdom #223

"It will become easier to see why a theory of value should have seemed to hold such promise if one looks at the way the word 'value' has been used in social theory on the past. There are, on might say, three large streams of thought that converge in the present term. These are:

  1. 'values' in the sociological sense: conceptions of what is ultimately good, proper or desirable in human life.
  2. 'value' in the economic sense: the degree to which objects are desired, particularly, as measured by how much others are willing to give up to get them.
  3. 'value' in the linguistic sense, which goes back to the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure (1966), and might be most simply glossed as 'meaningful difference'.

When anthropologists nowadays speak of value... ...they are at least implying that the fact that all of these things should be called by the same word is no coincidence. That ultimately, these are all refractions of the same thing. But if one reflects on it at all, this is a very challenging notion. It would mean, for instance, that when we talk about the 'meaning' of a word, and when we talk about the 'meaning of life', we are not talking about utterly different things. And that both have something in common with the sale price of a refrigerator."

David Graeber Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value - The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001) p.1-2

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