World History I

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. and Christe A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Tuedays and Thursdays, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time



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Resources: general discussion
Using maps

2: Thu, Sep 5, 2019

Please read the discussion of resources. We will go over it in class.

The issues here are as as old as our earliest records and as timely as today’s newspaper: many, if not most, of the conflicts and stresses in the world — both those between different nations and societies, and those between different strata of a given society — are about who gets what. That problem extends to both material resources (food, land, energy) and money, which is, as everyone seems to know, a medium of exchange.

What it means to have or use a medium of exchange is perhaps not quite so obvious. Money emerged in early societies at about the time they were becoming capable of keeping records, and keeping track of goods was probably one of the first reasons for writing at all. But we have no very clear stories of it happening. The implications of the decision to rely on a third (though in itself not particularly useful) thing to mediate the exchange of goods and commodities are far-reaching. How does money differ essentially from the things for which it stands? Why do we even value money at all? It is at most a conventional good: if nobody believed in it, its value would evaporate inastantly. In a sense, it is a fiction that we make concrete and empower with our consent. Why do we play along? What do we (people as a whole) get out of the deal?

We will also talk about the various sorts of other things for which people strive. In some respects material goods (and money) are convertible with power, which we discussed last time. In other ways they are quite different. The basic resources throughout history have changed relatively little, on the long view. A sufficiency of food for one person is necessary, but twice as much is not twice as good.