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Burning MoneyThe Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld$
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C. Fred Blake

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835323

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835323.001.0001

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(p.198) Chapter 9 Value
Burning Money

C. Fred Blake

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the capacity of paper money to realize different notions of value as a phenomenon of exchange. It first compares burning money with kula and potlatch and considers how paper money differs from “spirit money,” or spirit favors that include forms of “real money.” It then discusses social economy and how it relates to the way value is produced, along with Karl Marx's concept of commodity and money fetish. It suggests that the Chinese custom of burning paper money may be viewed as a fetishization of a protracted historical formation based on agrarian forces and relations of production. It describes the money-burning custom as a sacrificial offering that upheld this agrarian formation by the very people whose sacrifice of labor power made the whole thing possible.

Keywords:   paper money, value, exchange, spirit money, social economy, fetishization, paper-money burning, sacrifice, kula, potlatch

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