This post continued my coverage of the ox4 conference (part 1, part 2). The topic of Raoul Victor’s talk was Money and Peer Production. He pointed out that money as a dominant social relation emerged only with capitalism. In pre-capitalist societies, most social relations weren’t based on money and symmetric exchange. That’s an important reminder since people often believe that money and markets are more or less neutral tools which can be used for non-capitalist purposes, since they are far older than capitalism. They forget that money and markets have never been the primary means of organizing production in any non-capitalist society, they only played minor, supporting roles. Money cannot become the dominant social form outside of capitalism, and capitalism cannot exist without money.
Raoul also explained that money is just the incorporation of symmetric exchange; you cannot abolish money without abolishing exchange, and vice versa. Money emerges spontaneously when it is needed, e.g. cigarettes were used as a substitute money in times of war. When markets are forbidden but there is no other adequate way of organizing production and distribution, black markets appear—markets in their worst form. So money can only be abandoned by getting rid of its root cause: exchange.