This chapter examines the function of paper money from the perspective of historical materialism. It begins by asking whether the paper money custom constitutes an ideology, with particular emphasis on the ideas of Hill Gates. It then considers the folk ideology of paper money that serves a particular late medieval, “historically conditioned form of capitalism,” which Gates labels a petty capitalist mode of production (PCMP). It also draws a distinction between the modern system of capital formation and the “precapitalist” formations, or what it calls social economies. It describes a social economy as “lifeworld” than as “culture” and how it relates to the way value is produced. The chapter concludes by discussing the cultural formation of paper money as well as Karl Marx's theory of fetishism in commodity production that implies a distinction between two different ways of disguising the extraction of labor power in the circulation of its products: reification and mystification.
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