The Pequod Review:
The Grundrisse is a wide-ranging series of Karl Marx's unpublished notebooks. His writings are dense and undeveloped (and even contradictory), but they nonetheless include a number of dazzling insights from a first-rate mind trying to understand how our economy and society work. Here he describes money's essential role in capitalism:
Money is therefore the god among commodities. From its servile role, in which it appears as mere medium of circulation, it suddenly changes into the lord and god of the world of commodities. It represents the divine existence of commodities, while they represent its early form….
Money is therefore not only an object, but is the object of greed. It is essentially auri sacra fames. Greed as such, as a particular form of the drive, i.e. as distinct from the craving for a particular kind of wealth, e.g. for clothes, weapons, jewels, women, wine etc., is possible only when general wealth, wealth as such, has become individualized in a particular thing, i.e. as soon as money is posited in its third quality. Money is therefore not only the object but also the fountainhead of greed…
The individual carries his social power, as well as his bond with society, in his pocket.
Here he considers how production not only satisfies human needs, but at the same time creates new needs:
The object is not an object in general, but a specific object which must be consumed in a specific manner, to be mediated in turn by production itself. Hunger is hunger, but the hunger gratified by cooked meat eaten with a knife and fork is a different hunger from that which bolts down meat raw with the aid of hand, nail and tooth. Production thus produces not only the object but also the manner of consumption, not only objectively but also subjectively….
The exploration of the earth in all directions, to discover new things of use as well as new useful qualities of the old; such as new qualities of them as raw materials etc.; the development, hence, of the natural sciences to their highest point; likewise the discovery, creation and satisfaction of new needs arising from society itself; the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations — production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures, hence cultured to a high degree — is likewise a condition of production founded on capital.
And his thoughts on the tendency of capitalism toward booms and busts anticipated Keynes:
These contradictions, of course, lead to explosions, crises, in which momentary suspension of all labor and annihilation of a great part of the capital violently lead it back to the point where it is enabled [to go on] fully employing its productive powers without committing suicide. Yet, these regularly recurring catastrophes lead to their repetition on a higher scale, and finally to its violent overthrow. There are moments in the developed movement of capital which delay this movement other than by crises; such as e.g. the constant devaluation of a part of the existing capital: the transformation of a great part of capital into fixed capital which does not serve as agency of direct production; unproductive waste of a great portion of capital etc.