Money in a Society

Is it possible to form a society without money?

My answer is no, because money is essential in a society, without it, trading would be difficult and other forms of payment would have to replace money itself, causing problems and troubles.

In class, we just finished reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath is a novel set back during the Dust Bowl period, giving insights into the farmers who were forced to leave their homes in an effort to earn money. The novel focuses on an Oklahomaian family, the Joads, and documents their journey to California in order to find jobs to provide for their family.

The Grapes of Wrath would answer:

No money is essential in a society, money is the reason that drove the Joads family and many other families to California, to find a job, a source of income.

In the beginning chapters of the Grapes of Wrath, the audience is introduced to the corrupted nature of the bank, company and the landowners. The Joads, and many other Oklahomaians were forced off of their lands because they couldn’t farm on the land any further as the weather was harsh and the soil couldn’t harvest during the Dust Bowl period. The bank/company forced the tenant farmers off of the land because they wanted money. In order to get more money, they got rid of all the farmer tenants and started using tractors (the monsters).

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“The man sitting in the iron seat [of the tractor] did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat. … He could not see the land as it was, he could not smell the land as it smelled; his feet did not stamp the clods or feel the warmth and power of the earth (Steinbeck 35).”

A couple of chapters later, the audience is then introduced to the corrupted car dealers. This intercalary chapter illustrates the corrupted side of the car dealers, selling cars at a higher price than it’s worth to make profits off of it as well as false advertising cars to sell it eventhough they’re not in the best conditions.

“All right, Joe. You soften ‘em up an’ shoot ‘em in here. I’ll close ‘em, I’ll deal ‘em or I’ll kill ‘em. Don’t send in no bums. I want deals … Fifty. Fifty? He’s nuts. Paid seventy-eight for that little number. Joe you crazy fool, you tryin’ to bust us?” (Steinbeck 63-64).

Finally, fast forwarding to a couple more chapters, Steinbeck now introduces the audience to the greedy landowners in California. The owners in California, in order to achieve cheap labor, sent out hundreds of handbills to pull the migrants in to work for them. The migrants, desperate for money would do any job given to them at any price, even as low as 15 cents,“and this was good, for wages went down and prices stayed up. The great owners were glad and they sent out more handbills to bring more people in” (Steinbeck 283).

Chapter 22 oppose to the novel’s answer, depending on the audience’s perception of it. A quote in particular struck me. It was on the night that the Joads pulled up onto the campsite, while Tom was filling out the paperworks, the watchman informed him about the cost of living at the campsite, “well the camp site costs a dollar a week, but you can work it out, carrying garbage, keeping the camp clean – stuff like that” (Steinbeck 287). The watchman offered Tom alternative ways to pay the camp site, either by paying them with money or just working for them in return for shelter. This opposed to the novel’s answer because the novel’s response is that a society cannot exist without money, however, Tom was given alternative options to do in order for shelter at the campsite.


The Language of Composition

The Language of Composition would answer:

No, a moneyless society is not possible in such a modern world we live in.

In the Language of Composition, a short piece, Serving in Florida written by Barbara Ehrenreich clearly illustrate how important money is in our society today. While she was serving in Florida, she endured harsh working hours, working conditions and horribly rude customers. Ehrenreich had customers who “… [ran] me [her] mercilessly and then leave me [her] $1 on a $92 bill” (Ehrenreich 398). Nita, her co-worker, always asked her tauntingly “have we started making money yet?” (Ehrenreich 398), to which she ignored. Ehrenreich, by providing those details helps the readers understand how important money is. She slaved herself each day to work and in return earning an average wage of $7.50 an hour, which in turn is used to pay the gas “eating up $4 – $5 a day” (Ehrenreich 399), monthly rent, and food/groceries.

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Another example would be an essay from Eric Schlosser In the Strawberry Field. In the Strawberry Fields, compares the wages in California to the wages in Mexico. A lot of the poor migrants from Mexico jumped at any farm job opportunities in California because of the wage. The wages that the landowners offered the Mexicans was approximately ten times higher/as high as any wages the poor Mexicans can earn back in Mexico. Many native Californians didn’t seek farm-work because they were discouraged by the price, “the wages offered at harvest were too low to sustain a family in the United States” (Schlosser 435). Money is important in a society, without it, trading would be difficult, as seen with the discouraged Californians in opposed to the motivated and eager poor Mexicans.


Outside Source

Yes, a moneyless society is possible.

“The answer is yes. … We can live in a society without money because for many years the barter was used, which is to change some of your property to someone[‘s] else for something [in] need from the other person. No risk of theft [and] there would be no Inflation or Hyperinflation” (Franco Meschini, Can We Have a Society Without Money?).

As Meschini mentioned, we used to live in a society prior to the existence of money, what’s preventing it from being possible now?

Back then, money was non-existent, people traded with others for goods. For example, if Kay, wanted some fish from the fisher Tom, she would ask Tom for the fishes then what he desires in return for the fishes, something that would be useful for him.

A popular form of exchange back in the days were Shell Money. Shell Money were common back then in many parts of the world, it is similar to money that we have today, except they’re shells. Shells were traded everywhere because many desired them to be made into either jewelries or into carved shapes.

“Shell money usually consisted either of whole sea shells or pieces of them, which were often worked into beads or were otherwise artificially shaped. The use of shells in trade began as direct commodity exchange, the shells having value as body ornamentation” (Franco Meschini, Can We Have a Society Without Money?).

The first form of currency back then was Cocoa. In the early days, the Aztec Empire economy was ranked above gold dust, their form of currency was Cocoa beans. The Aztec carry around 24,000 cocoa beans, and kept them in bags. The Aztecs used cocoa beans as money, a form of currency because cocoa trees are difficult to grow and producing cocoa beans, which makes them more desirable.

Regarding the Aztec’s form of money, an observer noted, “oh, blessed money which yieldeth sweete and profitable drinke for mankinde, and preserveth the possessors thereof free from the hellish pestilence of avarice because it cannot be long kept hid underground” (Einzig, 1966)

One thing that stood out and oppose the source’s answer would be the disadvantage of a moneyless society. The disadvantage is trading would be difficult, and the whole process of trading would lead to confusion and chaos.


My view on this matter changed, prior to researching about this topic, I believed that a society cannot, absolutely cannot exist without money. My answer to this question, Is it possible to form a society without money?, is now:

Yes, a society can be formed without money. 

However, in this century that we live in, money is essential, because it is what motivates people to work. A society can be formed without money, back then and somewhere in this world, but in America, a society can be formed without money, but it wouldn’t last.

-Jackie

Featured image: https://www.biophysics.org/2012meeting/GeneralInfo/InternationalTravelers/CurrencyExchange/tabid/2396/Default.aspx

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