Can basic income break through money fetishism?

Songs: Ohia – Back On Top

Basic income is a fascinating strategy to go beyond the poverty and a wide range of terrible economic and social effects brought about by neo-liberal capitalism. But we could not but raise whether it would be helpful to break through the money and commodity fetishism. In principle, basic income is based on the payment of money for redistribution of social wealth. While aiming to resist the inequality, it does not grapple critically with capitalist characteristics of money form. Basic income is trying to overcome the labor(-addiction) and consumer society, that is, work-fetishism. However, is it likely to sublate the money fetishism, along with the restriction of capitalist exploitation? I mean by the fetishism that money, commodity and (abstract social) labor are necessary social form and appearance in capitalist mode of production. Without it, capitalism fails to operate.

Basic income presumably regards that such money form of provision is better than the form of provision in kind for the redistribution of wealth. It contends why it is beneficient as follows; i) simple and easy technic, ii) helpful to consume less, iii) respectful to individual choice and autonomy. But telling the money it seems to assume that money is just only a exchange tool among goods, ultimately harmless one. According to Mylondo, “because basic income is provided as the subsidy form to be consumed in a certain time span, it contributes to keep the proper function of money to mediate the exchange of goods and services. Here money refers to (pure) money not suitable for hoarding or any kind of speculation.”(B. Mylondo, Pour Un Revenu Sans Condition, p. 72 in Korean edition.)

But it is not sure that money allocated by basic income as a universal gift token turns out to achieve the goal, which is to pave the path toward non-capitalist social relation with the restriction of capitalist money form as capital which is self-valorizing money. Among others, money is necessary and elementary social form which capital takes. Therefore it is important to take note that money refers to production and reproduction of reified social relation.; As K. Marx says, “capital-profit (or better still capital-interest), land-ground-rent, labour-wages, this economic trinity as the connection between the components of value and wealth in general and its sources, completes the mystification of the capitalist mode of production, the reification of social relations, and the immediate coalescence of the material relations of production with their historical and social specificity: the bewitched, distorted and upside-down world haunted by Monsieur Ie Capital and Madame la Terre, who are at the same time social characters and mere things.”(K. Marx, Capital, Vol. 3. p. 969.)

Since financialization across the globe in some decades, money and credit have swept overwhelmingly over the social life. We might call it the monetization of life that one used to regard the various assets and their derived income as source of wealth. The expansion of unemployment and precarious employment forms force people to rely on those economic practices like as speculating in real estates, stocks, bonds, derivatives and so on, known as finance commodities. So the money provided as basic income should fight against the magics and mysteries of money-form which hinders the collective political and cultural imagination to overcome fetishism.


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