Beyond The Credit-Debt Pendulum: A Search for Common Value
This series of articles examines the meaning of value in economics.
Through the lens of the commons, we hope to stimulate a rethinking
of the goals, methods and conceptual structures of
economic theory and its modes of action. In Part One, we considered
Aristotle’s contrast between C-M-C’ (the exchange of useful
things through sufficiency and credit in the household) and
M-C-M’ (the money-making activities of commodity trade and
debt in the market). This important distinction—which reveals
how the early market economies broke away from the legal, customary
and ethical constraints of pre-modern societies—has influenced
commons thinkers down the centuries. Karl Polanyi
called Aristotle’s economic formulation “probably the most
prophetic pointer ever made in the realm of the social sciences;
it is certainly still the best analysis of the subject we possess” (The
Great Transformation, 43). Yet, as Part Two suggests, Aristotle’s
guideline needs to be recalibrated for the economic realities of
the 21st century, since household sufficiency doesn’t begin to describe
the many facets of the commons that we recognize today.
James Bernard Quilligan has been an analyst and administrator in the field of international development since 1975. He has served as policy advisor and writer for many international politicians and leaders,
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