Five Dollars in Your Pocket

Imagine that you have a $5 note in your pocket, and you make use of this $5 note by going shopping one morning, and you spend the full $5. What does it mean that you go out with a $5 note in your pocket?

The $5 note is really an illusion - it is worth nothing in reality.... Money is... only a 'go-between'. And only because in our day a certain social order exists, an order belonging purely to the State, therefore this $5 note which you have spent in the morning for different items is nothing else than an equivalent for so many days of labour of so many men.

A number of men must have completed so many days of work, so much human labour must have flowed into the social order - must have crystallized itself into merchandise - in order for the apparent worth of the bank note to have any real value, but only at the command of the social order.

The bank note only gives you the power to call into your service so much labour, or to put it another way, to command its worth in work. You can picture it in your mind: There I have a bank note, which assigns to me, according to my social position, the power over so many men. If you now see these workmen selling their labour hour by hour, as the equivalent value of that which you have in your purse as the $5 note, then you begin to get a picture of the real facts.

Our relationships have become so complicated that we no longer pay attention to these things, especially if they do not concern us closely... What must be done so that social life and forms are consciously established in opposition to anti-social forces? What is really required? I said that it would be difficult in our time for people to develop sufficient interest in each other.

You do not have sufficient interest if you think that you can buy yourself something with a $5 note and do not remember the fact that this brings about a social relationship with certain other human beings and their labour-power.

You only have an adequate interest when in your picture you are able to substitute for each apparent transaction (such as the exchange of goods for a $5 note) the real transaction which is linked with it.

(Steiner, Social and Anti-Social Forces, Dec 12, 1918, Berne, GA 186)



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posted: May 18, 2007