A sociologist takes a broad new view of the nature, value and history of money.
In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, with its attendant bank failures and economic downturn, Dodd (Sociology/London School of Economics; Social Theory and Modernity, 1999, etc.) claims that it is time to reconsider the nature of money. The idea of money has reached a tipping point, with new forms and systems quickly proliferating. In this authoritative work, the author examines the ideas of specialists against those of an array of social and cultural theorists, philosophers and literary critics—individuals who have written about money but are not monetary theorists—from Friedrich Nietzsche (“The educated classes are being swept along by a hugely contemptible money economy. The world has never been more worldly, never poorer in love and goodness”) to Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida and Michael Hardt. Much of Dodd’s analysis focuses on money’s role in our lives, beginning with the German sociologist Georg Simmel’s argument that it is a claim upon society. The monetary crisis, writes Dodd, has revealed “the social life of money, i.e., the complex and dynamic configuration of social, economic, and political relations on which money depends.” To offer this more nuanced view, he discusses the origins of money, the renewed interest in Marxian theory and the relationship of money to culture, decadence, waste and territory. While culture is “important to understanding the ways in which people shape money for themselves, bending it to their own purposes,” the cultural context has been “glaring” in its absence from mainstream discussion. In a chapter on the possible transformation of money, the author considers mobile money, Bitcoin, social lending and other alternative money systems.
An exhaustive analysis of money as a complex social process—not a thing—that will appeal to scholars in many fields.