The Blood of the Commonwealth

War, the State, and the Making of World Money

In: Historical Materialism
David McNally York University Toronto

Search for other papers by David McNally in
Current site
Google Scholar
View More View Less
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Insisting on the status of money as a creature of both the market and the state, this article challenges dualistic understandings of capitalist imperialism as entailing two fundamentally distinct logics, one capitalist, the other territorial. In opposition to the dual-logics position, the article argues for the distinctiveness of capitalist money in terms of a complex but unitary socio-economic logic. The social dynamism of this logic involves the spatial-territorial extension of the domain of modern value relations, embodied in fully-capitalist money. Departing from the development of coinage in ancient Greece, the article proceeds to identify the 1690s in Britain as the decisive moment in the emergence of a new and distinctively capitalist form of (world) money, institutionally based upon the Bank of England, in which state debt was thoroughly integrated with private financial markets. The crucial role of the Bank of England in this new monetary system is shown to have pivoted on its capacities to finance Britain’s inter-colonial wars. Colonialism, war, slavery and dispossession underline the omnipresence of ‘blood and dirt’ (Marx) in the development and reproduction of capitalist impersonal power as expressed in world money. Undoing the impersonal power characteristic of bourgeois money thus entails undoing the economic dispossession of the labouring poor, which forms the basis of their ‘possession’ by capital.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 891 190 7
Full Text Views 672 107 25
PDF Views & Downloads 1042 256 50