On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy
Chapter 2: Aristotle on the Relation between Capital (Chrematistics) and Character
ARISTOTLE’S PRONOUNCEMENTS CONCERNING THE UNNATURAL USE OF MONEY 2.1 Recall from the previous chapter that Aristotle held people may develop a tendency to want to accumulate or acquire coins, to accumulate or acquire money. Aristotle reasoned this to be unnatural. Hence, for Aristotle, ‘natural riches and the natural art of wealth-getting are a different thing; in their true form they are part of the management of a household; whereas retail trade is the art of producing wealth . . . by exchange’ (Politics: 1257b). Unfortunately, ‘some persons are led to believe that getting wealth is the object of household management, and the whole idea of their lives is that they ought either to increase their money without limit or at any rate not to lose it’ (ibid.). For Aristotle, these people want to live only and not to live well. They are plagued by an excess of desires. They want too much. Hence, they desire an excess of enjoyments, and they strive ceaselessly after the accumulation of money. Aristotle concludes: ‘there are two sorts of wealth-getting . . . one is a part of household management, the other is retail trade: the former is necessary and honourable, while that which consists in exchange is justly censured; for it is unnatural and a mode by which men gain from one another’ (1258a). Thus, acquiring money through trade for Aristotle is not really creating or producing wealth. Rather, it is basically redistributing wealth from one person to another. Aristotle goes further than this. He criticizes not only the...
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