The Commons

Toward A Common Theory of Value | Part Three: Common Knowing

Our Brain Hemispheres: Decoding the Epistemology of Economics

The articles in this series examine the meaning of value in economics. Parts One and Two considered Aristotle’s distinction between C-M-C’ (the possession of household Commodities, which aims at getting useful things to sustain life) and M-C-M’ (the ownership of wealth, which aims at getting Money by converting commodities into profit). These studies found that C-M-C’ and M-C-M’ do not express a material unity of self and whole. For one thing, the commodity form is not a natural or stable unit since there are many areas where commodities do not exist, such as gift economies (like Wikipedia) or the exchange of aboriginal modes of property (like sharing with friends). For another, the money form—which requires an individual’s integration into the marketplace through the general equivalence of currency value—is by no means an absolute form of shared experience or Being.

Despite its flaws, Aristotle’s structure is still helpful in differentiating the ordinary world of useful things and use value from the economic world of money and exchange value. This distinction has remained viable since Aristotle first introduced it in Politics in 350 BCE. His articulation of value in natural language has resonated across generations, inspiring non-market ideas from economists as diverse as Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. Part Three broadens this inquiry by considering the epistemology which underlies Aristotle’s framework. It analyzes how our economic knowledge is predicated on the ways we know.

To continue reading this article, please purchase the Fall | Winter 2012 issue of Kosmos Journal or the article can be downloaded as a PDF here.