Samezo Kuruma: Marx's Theory of the Genesis of Money--How, Why, and Through What Is a Commodity Money?

Author:Hinze, Daniel
Position:Book review

Samezo Kuruma

Marx's Theory of the Genesis of Money--How, Why, and Through What Is a Commodity Money? Leiden: Brill, 2017; 194 pp.: ISBN 9789004322387, 87 [pounds sterling]

This is a substantially revised version of the book Michael Schauerte translated and self-published in 2008. It is a compilation of a 1957 book and part of a 1979 book by Kuruma and--in essence--provides a close reading of the first four chapters of Capital I in conjunction with other relevant material from Marx's work.

Kuruma's exposition is driven by his effort to critique Kozo Uno's interpretation of Marx's development of the value and money form, which Uno set out in the early 1950s. Uno was an economist and a pre-eminent Japanese Marxist theorist who held that:

* [i]t is [...] mistaken to think that the role played by the want of the commodity owner is abstracted from in the theory of the value form (p. 60);

* [t]he demandfor the active expression of value is the demand of the commodity owner, and a certain commodity is in the relative form of value because of the existence of that commodity owner (p. 79);

* [w]hen the general equivalent becomes money it is no Longer Limited to the relation where that commodity is desired for its inherent use value and expresses the value of another commodity on that basis (p. 94, all quotes set in italics in the original).

Kuruma states that he is at a loss to understand how Uno could arrive at his interpretation (e.g. on p. 78) and methodically sets out his counter position. 'The aim of the theory of the value form is to clarify the form in which the value of a commodity is manifested' (p. 62). Taking linen as the commodity that expresses its own value using a coat, the coat only functions as [...] [the value body] existence, whereas its own intrinsic utility (as a thing to satisfy the want of the linen owner) plays no role at all (p. 70, italics in original) and 'the natural body of the coat cannot be of any use as a means of staying warm or looking fashionable. The natural body of the coat is only useful as a mirror that reflects its own value. Here the only role of the coat's natural body is to be the embodiment of abstract human labour' (p. 71). Without the reciprocal want of commodity owners, commodities would not be brought into relation with one another but that want does not establish their relative value.

Marx is clear that the relation of use values in exchange is only surface appearance: 'Exchange value appears first of...

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