On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy
Chapter 1: Aristotle on Exchange Value and Money
ARISTOTLE’S ANALYSIS OF EXCHANGE VALUE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF MONEY IN THE POLITICS In Book I, Chapter I of Aristotle’s Politics, Aristotle holds that ‘every community is established with a view to some good; for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think is good’ (12521a). Here, as most everywhere in Aristotle, the emphasis is on the end, the goal, the reason why people do things. Aristotle further claims that ‘In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue’ (ibid.). Therefore, ‘the family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants’ (1252b). Note here the necessary importance of economic concerns for Aristotle at the very beginning of The Politics. Men and women join together to form a family for at least partly economic reasons: to help supply their wants, since ‘the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing’ (1253a). Aristotle then goes into a brief discussion of home economics, or household (or estate) management. He holds that ‘seeing then that the state is made up of households, before speaking of the state we must speak of the management of the household’ (1253b).1 Included in this discussion of household management is a seminal, forever-after controversial discussion concerning ‘another element of a household, the so-called art of getting wealth’ (ibid.). Aristotle believes ‘the amount of property which is needed for a good life is not unlimited’...
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