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The Rise of Money and Class Society: The Contributions of John F. Henry

Listed author(s):
  • Alla Semenova
  • L. Randall Wray

This paper explores the rise of money and class society in ancient Greece, drawing historical and theoretical parallels to the case of ancient Egypt. In doing so, the paper examines the historical applicability of the chartalist and metallist theories of money. It will be shown that the origins and the evolution of money were closely intertwined with the rise and consolidation of class society and inequality. Money, class society, and inequality came into being simultaneously, so it seems, mutually reinforcing the development of one another. Rather than a medium of exchange in commerce, money emerged as an "egalitarian token" at the time when the substance of social relations was undergoing a fundamental transformation from egalitarian to class societies. In this context, money served to preserve the façade of social and economic harmony and equality, while inequality was growing and solidifying. Rather than "invented" by private traders, money was first issued by ancient Greek states and proto-states as they aimed to establish and consolidate their political and economic power. Rather than a medium of exchange in commerce, money first served as a "means of recompense" administered by the Greek city-states as they strived to implement the civic conception of social justice. While the origins of money are to be found in the origins of inequality, a well-functioning democratic society has the power to subvert the inequality-inducing characteristic of money via the use of money for public purpose, following the principles of Modern Money Theory (MMT). When used according to the principles of MMT, the inequality-inducing characteristic of money could be undermined, while the current trends in rising income and wealth disparities could be contained and reversed.

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File URL: http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_832.pdf
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Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_832.

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Date of creation: Feb 2015
Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_832
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.levyinstitute.org

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  1. Stephanie Bell & John Henry, 2001. "Hospitality versus Exchange: The Limits of Monetary Economies," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 59(2), pages 203-226.
  2. Stephanie Bell & John Henry & L Randall Wray, 2004. "A Chartalist Critique of John Locke's Theory of Property, Accumulation, and Money: or, is it Moral to Trade Your Nuts for Gold?," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(1), pages 51-65.
  3. Bell, Stephanie, 2001. "The Role of the State and the Hierarchy of Money," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 149-163, March.
  4. Mark S. Peacock, 2006. "The origins of money in Ancient Greece: the political economy of coinage and exchange," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(4), pages 637-650, July.
  5. Alla Semenova, 2011. "Would You Barter with God? Why Holy Debts and Not Profane Markets Created Money," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 376-400, 04.
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