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Podstatou kapitalismu je úrok

Adam Votruba

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought I, no. 1 (2017): 21–35

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Keywords: Economic theory, Silvio Gesell, interest and debt

This article presents the intellectual legacy of German economist Silvio Gesell (1862–1930). Gesell is known above all as the originator of the notion of “stamped” currency that loses value when not circulated. With the mortgage crisis of 2008, Gesell’s thought took on new relevance, after central banks lowered interest rates almost to zero and were unable to stimulate the economy by lowering rates further. While certain aspects of Gesell’s theory may be outdated, it is noteworthy that Gesell was able to anticipate later developments in mainstream economics, such as the influence of interest rates on economic performance. Gesell’s theory also has significant consequences for our understanding of the capitalist economy as such. Gesell polemicized with Marx, for example, arguing that Marx did not grasp the essence of capitalism, which, according to Gesell, lies in a monetary system driven by interest, which in turn leads to social problems such as unemployment and economic crises. These ideas have been pursued further by a number of economists influenced by Gesell, such as Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer, and Dieter Suhr. Although the author of this article agrees with many of Gesell’s assertions, he notes that Gesell’s understanding of money as an exogenous factor in the economy (a widely shared understanding of money in Gesell’s day) can no longer be uncritically accepted. The author observes, moreover, that the development of alternative currencies leaves us with the challenge of comparing these currencies to one another and examining their relation to the economy as a whole.

doi: 10.46957/con.2017.1.3

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