I The pre-capitalist origins of usurer’s capital
Both interest-bearing capital (i.e. usurer’s capital) and merchant’s capital long predate the capitalist mode of production.
Usurer’s capital requires nothing more for its existence than that at least a portion of the products is transformed into commodities and that money in its various functions develops concurrently with trade in commodities.
The development of usurer’s capital is bound up with that of merchant’s capital, and particularly with that of money-dealing capital. In ancient Rome, from the latter phases of the Republic onwards, although manufacture stood at a much lower level than the average for the ancient world, merchant’s capital, money-dealing capital and usurer’s capital – in the ancient form – were developed to their highest point.
The appearance of money necessarily leads to hoard formation; the hoarder becomes important as a money-lender. (The merchant, in turn, borrows money to make a profit with it, i.e. to use it as capital, and stands in the same relationship to the money-lender as does the producing capitalist.)
Pre-capitalist usurer’s capital has existed historically in two forms. First, in that of lending money to elites (essentially landed proprietors); second, in that of lending money to small producers – artisans, and, especially, peasants. Through these two operations (‘the ruining of rich landed proprietors […] and the impoverishment of the small producers’), large money capitals are formed.
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