Thursday, December 5, 2013

Money Wisdom #228

"...theories of value have (at least since the '60's) been swinging back between two equally unsatisfactory poles: on the one hand, a warmed-over economism that makes 'value' simply the measure of individual desire; on the other, some variant of Saussurean 'meaningful difference.'... ...In either case, what's being evaluated is essentially static. Economism tends to reify everything in sight, reducing complex social relations between people - understandings about property rights, honour or social standing - into objects that individual actors can then seek to acquire. To turn something into a thing is, normally, to stop it in motion; not surprising, then, that such approaches usually have little place for creativity or even, unless forced, production. Saussurean Structuralism on the other hand ascribes value not to things but to abstract categories - these categories together make up a larger code of meaning. But Saussure himself insisted quite explicitly that this code has to be treated as if it existed outside of action, change, and time. Linguistics. he argued, draws its material from particular acts of speech but language, the rules of grammar, codes of meaning, and so on that make speech comprehensible. While speech (parole) exists in time and is always changing, language (langue) - 'the code' - has to be treated as 'synchronic', as if it existed in a kind of transcendent moment outside it."

David Graeber Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value - The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001) p.46

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