Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx
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Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx

On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy

Spencer J. Pack

Spencer Pack compares and contrasts Aristotle’s, Smith’s and Marx’s theoretical systems on six fundamental issues: exchange value, money, capital, character, government, and change. This book also provides insights on issues concerning the continuing development of world money, saving, managerial capitalism, corrupt governments, and various secular and religious movements for social change.
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Chapter 11: Exchange Value and Money in the 21st Century

Spencer J. Pack


GENERAL COMMENTS I have argued that Adam Smith basically begins his economic analysis with Aristotle, the distinction between use value and exchange value, and how money necessarily develops out of the exchange of goods. However, Smith then largely rejects Aristotle, particularly with regard to the desirability of using money to acquire more money. Nonetheless, the rejection is not complete. Not surprisingly, there are still plenty of residues of Aristotelian thinking and analysis in Smith’s work. A similar, though largely opposite story has been told with Marx. Marx explicitly begins his analysis with Aristotle, the distinction between use value and exchange value, how this necessarily generates money, and how money may be used to acquire more money. Indeed, I have argued that Marx’s Capital can be viewed to be a largely Aristotelian account of the birth (coming-to-be), development and anticipated death (passing-away) of the capitalist mode of production, a system of production based upon the goal of using money to acquire more money. Marx stresses all four of Aristotle’s causes: the final, formal, material and efficient causes of this historically specific capitalist mode of production. Marx also thoroughly knows his Smith, and sees his own account as a critique of modern political economy, which of course includes a critique of Smith’s work, the most systematic, comprehensive account of capitalism.1 Nonetheless, as with Smith and Aristotle, there are still many similarities and residues of Smith’s modern work in Marx’s modern work; most notably in their modern account of historical change, as well...

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