Mohamed Zayani



L’histoire n’est qu’en apparence saturˇe de causes et d’effets.

Fˇlix Guattari

Celui que le "rˇel" obs¸de ne comprend rien.

Henri Lefebvre


The economic significance of money has for a long time been the privileged theoretical axis for a Marxist interpretation of society. The story of those critics and historians who have sought to reduce the complexity of social phenomena to an economic perspective is well known and does not need to be rehearsed. Less common, however, is the reverse endeavor to find in money a para-economic significance. But is it possible to posit an understanding of money that is not exclusively coterminous with the economic? Is it possible to conceive of money not as a "determining thing" but as a "social relation" within a specific social formation? Such are the polemic considerations that inform Jean-Joseph Goux’s The Coiners of Language, a lucid analysis of Andrˇ Gide’s The Counterfeiters. The theoretical premise that underlies this project, which Goux has previously cultivated in his Symbolic Economies, assumes that the process of economic exchange is organized around a symbology that cuts across the different registers of the social body. In Goux’s formulations, the economic is not a determining factor (as is the case with the base/superstructure model) but an index for a mode of symbolization that can be seen at work in such varied forms of social exchange as law, kinship, sexuality, and religion. Social formations can be better understood when considered in relation to a unified mode of symbolization, provided this structural approach does not ignore the movement of history. As will become clear, the polemic stance that informs Goux’s symbology cannot be sundered from a methodological posture which stresses the dialectic of the symbolization process. The thrust of this dialectic is eloquently captured in Fran¨ois Jacob’s dictum that the "description of a living system requires reference to the logic of its organization, as well as to the logic of its evolution." For Goux, history is not a closed or total system, but an open and creative one.

In essence, Gide’s The Counterfeiters provides a case study for what Goux calls "modernist iconoclasm." Thematically, the novel registers a turning point whereby gold coins are superseded by forged money. This effect of forgery, however, exceeds the sphere of political economy; it is indicative of a whole crisis of representation. The lack of a transcendental referent that this monetary perspective conveys is implicated in a structural solidarity with other signifying practices that reinforce and reproduce a more general logic. Two key concepts are at the foreground of the movement of contestation that this crisis of representation engenders, money and language. The Coiners of Language, in fact, revolves around a conceptual parallel between the mode of economic exchange and the mode of signifying exchange, or more pointedly between the economic imaginary and the linguistic imaginary.


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