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

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  • Alla Semenova
  • L. Randall Wray

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alla Semenova & L. Randall Wray, 2015. "The Rise of Money and Class Society: The Contributions of John F. Henry," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_832, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_832
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    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, April.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Nature of Money; Chartalism; Metallism; Origins of Money; Origins of Coinage; Inequality; Class; Ideology; Religious Ideology; State Formation; State Theory of Money; Modern Money Theory;

    JEL classification:

    • B5 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches
    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • E11 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Marxian; Sraffian; Kaleckian
    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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