World History I

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. and Christe A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2018-19: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time



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Chapter 1: The Earliest Human Societies
to 2500 B.C.E.

2: Mon, Sep 10, 2018

Please read the chapter and take the quiz by midnight on Sun, Sep 9, 2018.
Please also read the discussion of resources. We will go over it in class.

The issues here are 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 a more complex problem. The use of 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 thing to mediate practical exchange are far-reaching. How does money differ essentially from the things for which it (to the parties of a transaction) stands? Why do we even now value money at all? It is at most a conventional good: if nobody believed in it, it would have absolutely no value. In a sense, we empower it with our consent. Why do we play along? What do we 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.