Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
Graphic Witness home page

Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

page 26. MONEY, OR THE CIRCULATION OF COMMODITIES


MONEY, OR THE CIRCULATION OF COMMODITIES

. . . It is not money that renders commodities commensurable. The very opposite is true. Because all commodities, in so far as they are values, are embodied human labor, and are therefore commensurable, their values can all be measured in one and the same specific commodity; and this latter can therefore be transformed into the common measure of their values, into money. Money as the measure of value is the necessary phenomenal form of the immanent measure of the value of commodities, namely, labor time. . . .

Money fulfills two entirely distinct functions: as the measure of value and as the standard of price. It is the measure of value because it is the social incarnation of human labor; it is the standard of price in so far as it exists in the form of a fixed weight of metal. As the measure of value it serves to transform the values of the manifold commodities into prices, into imaginary quantities of gold; as the standard of prices it measures these quantities of gold.

The measure of values measures commodities considered as values; the standard of prices measures, on the contrary, quantities of gold by a unit quantity of gold, not the value of one quantity of gold by the weight of another. If gold is to function as the standard of prices, a definite weight of gold must be fixed upon as the unit. Here, as whenever quantities of the same denomination are measured, it is of the utmost importance that there should be an unvarying unit of measurement. Consequently, the standard of prices will fulfil its function better in proportion to the degree to which one and the same quantity of gold can unalterably serve as the unit of measurement.

But gold can serve as the measure of values only because it is itself a product of labor, and therefore potentially variable in value. . . .

The price of a thing is the money name of the value embodied in that thing.

. . . Things which in and by themselves are not commodities, such as conscience, honor, etc., can be put up for sale by their owners, and can thus, through their price, acquire the commodity form. Hence a thing can have a price without having value. In that case, the price expression is imaginary, like certain magnitudes used in mathematical calculations. On the other hand, the imaginary price form may sometimes conceal a direct or indirect value relation; for instance, uncultivated land may have a price, though it has no value, since no human labor has been incorporated in it.

. . . Gold can serve as an ideal measure of value only because, in the process of exchange, it has already established itself as the money commodity. Behind the ideal measure of value lurks the hard cash.

. . . Gold as a pure commodity is not money; and when other commodities express their prices in gold, this gold is but the commodities themselves in a new metamorphosis, in the money form. . . .

Money acquires its function as a medium of circulation through being the instrument whereby the circulation of commodities is effected. . . .


Pieces of paper on which money names, such as £1, £5, etc., have been printed, are put into currency by the State. In so far as they really become current in place of the above-named sums of money, they mirror once more in their movement the laws of the currency of money. . . .

Paper money is a token representing gold or money. The relation between it and the values of commodities is this, that the latter are ideally represented in the same quantities of gold as are symbolically represented in the paper. Only in so far as paper money represents gold (which, like all other commodities, has value), is it a symbol of value.

. . . Just as all the qualitative differences between commodities are effaced in money, so money, on its part, a radical leveller, effaces all distinctions. But money is itself a commodity, an external object, capable of becoming the private property of any individual. Thus social power becomes a private power in the hands of a private person. That was why the ancients denounced money as subversive of the economic and moral order of things. Modern society. . .acclaims gold, its Holy Grail, as the glittering incarnation of its inmost vital principle. . . .