This paper tries to understand what frames urban processes under capitalism. The theme of money, time and space is explored. The paper explores abstract themes which have a concrete effect on personal lives. They seem to have a control over individuals.
Money as a commodity fixes meaning, shapes and forms urbanization. It renders it an open affair where outcomes may not always be determined. But this open affair conceals elements of class-domination. Urban protests, such as revolts and revolutions for through the demand for command over time, money and space, and liberate these for free use. Yet a creative use of the same can result in urban experiences. It’s this confusion that shapes the same. This part can be held rend able by looking at the history of these themes in the urban process. The paper goes on to explore all there in detail.
Money accordingly to Simmel, in itself, is abstract and devoid of any content, it represents abstract values, which in turn controls the values of everything else. All great novelists on the 19th century such as Dickens, Balzac, etc found it better to treat money as separate yet all-encompassing. In Dickens novel, money has been left ambiguous like a cloud though it hovers over and covers the entire world. Money is nothing and everything at the same time. it is ‘concrete abstraction’ that has power over us.
According to Marx, the abstract value of money is derived from concrete procedures of labour, production and slowly gains external power independent of this. Money represents ‘labour time’ and therefore cannot be understood without an understanding of social meanings of time and space. Money represents free will on how it is to be used, but these are within constraints. References to both Marx and Simmel are used to explain the democratic yet captive use of money. Money as replaced a traditional division of society with a class division based on the circulation of money. Urban life reflects these conditions. Simmel, however, fails to focus on the circulation of capital in a representation of social structures as Marx states.
The objective measures of money bring on social transformation in the community it is circulated in. The use of intellect in practical life goes hand in hand with the growth of a money economy, according to Simmel. According to Marx and Simmel, money has bow obtained a ‘quasi-religious’ quality, evoking faith in itself. Everything is reduced to a common plain of intellectuality which functions as the secular religion of the money economy.
According to Marx, the economy is reduced to time and the paper goes on to explore what qualities of time. Due to production and schedules created for labourers, time gained capitalistic qualities as opposed to the previous value based on religion. It became a chronological net in which urban time is caught. This also according to Le Goff creates a new type of class struggle. This time structure was created by merchants and remained in their power. The struggle over time in production can be dated to medieval times according to Le Goff, Marx states it can be traced to the Elizabethan period. Over several generations, “New labour habits were formed and new time-discipline imposed”, states E.P Thompson. Time is money was learnt based on timetables made for factory labourers. The schedule of the newly emerged masses at the end of the 19th century change the rhythm and form of urban life as stated by Simmel. All social activities are to be fitted into this. The urban-rural relationship in terms of time has been depicted is Thomas Hardy’s Tess.
This in term also affected spaces. The time spent on the journey to work created a separate workspace. This also resulted in specific meal times, family times, etc. A rise of mass communication such as telegraph and newspapers also created a uniform understanding of time and various similarities. This further affected the value and power of money and money as a social power in terms of a mortgage, interest values, store values, etc, based on individual preferences.
The function of money as store value aids individual power over time. The 19th century also saw a professional growth in measuring and defining time.
Space cannot be independent of money, according to Marx, as it marks a separation of buying and selling in both, space and time. Money represents a bond of social power with respect to both. Money provides access to inaccessible spaces (Simmel). The price system seems the most democratic yet the power is only a few hands. The paper explains how money has become a measure of the distance across the world. Space is seen as malleable thus can be controlled, my humans. Cadastral survey system made space homogeneous, objective and universal qualities. All divisions of classes started using these newly divided spaces for their own social purposes. This space had to be given a more objective measure for buying and selling these spaces, putting them under a ‘money value’.
A conflict created tension between land being used of social purposes and dominated by private property. This underlines fragmentation of spaces. Now that land could be so easily spaced, it posed a threat for social order. The response to this was to use whatever power each division had money, influence, violence, etc to seal it off.
A dramatic transformation of urban spaces came about when money dominated the land value in the 19th century. This created fragmentation in the homogenous society and this according to Durkheim it represented social spaces within the solidarity of society as a whole. Urban reformers and sociologist set out to seek these. These fragmentations got represented in the art of the times as well. Transport and communication are essential in terms of space.
The paper goes on to explore the conflict created due to these themes in society. All modes of revolt have proposed a utopian society different from the one functioning in the current reality. The association of human experience to money was increasingly hard to accept. Concepts such as feeling sad on Monday also came about due to this. Even the bourgeois was uncomfortable with the new division of time. The need to free spaces from this discipline has been at the heart of many urban protests. In this new communities were formed to try and keep ties and kinship sacred.
In the midst of this, new definitions for other social structures such as the family also came about. The paper goes on to talk about the intellectual conflict with the concept of money, referring to thinkers such as Morris, Marx, Nietzsche, etc. Some revolts were problematic as they sought solace in mysticism and religion.
But all these conflicts would have to face and money which is what represents power. Marx calls this the ‘dissolving effect’. It takes money to create alternate societies and this principle is the one all the conflicts seem to be opposing.
The paper further explores the idea of money, time, and space as sources of social power. The social power of money has been an object of lust, power, and greed. The control over space requires as well as gives on social power. The case is similar for the time as well. Money, space and time go hand in hand. Those who can afford to waste time or wait have a clear upper hand, especially in times of conflict. The capitalist can command over surplus labour time. Merchants who have the power to wait on payment have the resources t produce and those who don’t have it can’t. Similar conflicts are present in family life as well. Those who bring home money have the power to command over the use of it. This also aids the creation of gender roles.
Those who have the time to use can use it to create things that can help them acquire power. Abstractions of money, time, and space are not created independently of each other. All money is not capital but money is used to create capital which creates social power. Various contradictions get created in the process of circulation both in terms of capital and production. This leads to pressure in both the circulation of the commodity as well as the production of it. This contradiction exists in space and time as well. Natural landscapes being replaced by those that can produce more capital. Bourgeois conflict can also b traced on nostalgic elements and a fear of dominant mode of productions which Marx calls ‘self-dissolving contradictions’.
The disruption felt in social life due to social power is felt in different ways. The paper in detail describes the framing of social communities and the incoherencies created while doing so. To sustain power, the social system, such as capitalism must remove these incoherencies and close all avenues for social transformation. State power must be used to divert social movements as well as frame the use of money, time, and space as sources of social power.
Central bank money dominates all forms of money and the state rests its power on it. The state secures and manages time in terms of working days, holidays, national days, etc. The state affects the turnover time of capital and controls it via taxes, etc. The state controls all rights over spaces and property. The papers also cite examples of those who have enough knowledge on these themes can, in turn, control them such as Keynes, Weiner, etc. Those who can monopolise this knowledge can have social power.
The paper ends on the note of urban processes and political confusion. Money being a function of political power, to acquire it one has to compromise on time or space and in turn to acquire time or space on requires money. Understanding these themes helps us understand the urban process and to relations to the dominant classes. It also helps us understand the dilemma and confusion in the same. Capitalism in the last few hundred years has created a urbanisation has a second nature to society, rendering it hard to transform. The paper states that it is important to step back and reflect on these themes, not as a non-capitalist but as un urbanised human.
Harvey, David 1985 the Urban Experience, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Chapter 1. Money, Time, Space and The city. Pp.1-35