Sunday, September 1, 2013

Money is....

I've been rather absent-minded of late. You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter.
This is not unusual. My kids used rib me about it. I like to think that I'm quite on the ball, but I have to admit that there are times when I make the Robin Williams character in Flubber look like a Grand Master of Memory.

It's usually a sign that something is going on. Fortunately, I don't think it's early onset Alzheimer's. Not this time anyway.

My mind has been preoccupied with the usual things. As always my thoughts have been inspired, in part at least, by my reading. I have two books on the go, Frozen Desire by James Buchan, For Sale $20,000 by Bill Drummond, and I'm doing my usual internet reading, trying to stay up to speed with what's being said about Money. The last piece I looked at online before my thoughts crystallised was +Brett Scott's Riches Beyond Belief. I recently reviewed Brett's book.

There seems to be a whole bunch of people (including @EliGothill of Webisteme whose excellent work I've commented on before) getting together in Brixton and thinking deeply about Money and trying to create something new. I think this is brilliant.

However, I have some fundamental disagreements with Brett and Eli - and everyone else in the whole world (at least it seems that way at times) - about Money. So when I read their stuff the voice in my head is often saying, "Well, yes sort of but not really because....". In a few words, my problem is that they don't distinguish successfully between Money and currency, and they view Money as, in its essence, a technology, a social relation, and unreal.

There is also a tendency to use the phrase "Money is just.....". You should never do that.

David Graeber goes that one step further than all these good folks and says "money has no essence" [Debt (2011) p372]

Rather than argue against other's descriptions and definitions of Money though, I've always thought it's better to try to come up with my own. It's not easy. The description of Money that I've managed to muster thus far is;

"Money is an aspect of reality that mediates Value and enumerates certain relations through currency."

So where were we? Oh yes. My spell of absent mindedness. 

I was driving on the M25 yesterday, thinking of nothing in particular, when the following popped into my head. 

"Money is the and between the One and the Many."

I did think about punctuating it, or putting some words in italics, but I think its better unformatted.

I've been fascinated for a long while that the word 'Money' contains 'One' and 'M-and-Y'. That just seems amazing to me. It's why when gmail offered me the name jonone100 I snapped it up. (If you're wondering what I'm on about 'the one and the many' is the oldest perhaps most fundamental philosophical puzzle - Is there one thing, or are there many? [see Seaford (2004 p.255) for a fascinating discussion relating this to Money - Is Parmenidean metaphysics influenced by money?]

Anyway, I think it's stretching things to say that 'Money is the and between the One and the Many' defines what money is. Let's see how it sounds? "Money is just the and between the One and the Many" (Even typing 'Money is just....' felt so wrong.) No. It's more like a Money Koan. 

The thing is though, as far as I'm concerned, "Money is the and between the One and the Many" is true. And it does say what Money is. Which makes it close to a definition.

Other random events that have had their influence include this little quiz of wordles of famous literature. The word 'one' features prominently in many of them. I noticed that. And the images of money from the 1968 Avant Garde magazine which I recently purchased, one of which will shortly adorn this blog to replace the picture of me. So many of the images of money have - as you might expect - the word 'One' on them. 

So, in my world, this little Money Koan seems like the resolution to a Dr Who series where certain words keep popping up thorough seemingly unconnected events.

'Cause it's time, it's time in time with your time and its news is captured 
For the queen to use.
Jon Anderson  I've Seen All Good People  (1970)


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