Thursday, January 23, 2014

Money Wisdom #248

"...for Heraclitus the fiery soul circulates through the cosmological elements, with the death of one element as the birth of another. Our two contradictions now inhere in the universal circulation of fire. This transition of the same contradictions from mystic genealogy to the universal cosmology of Heraclitus is effected by the influence of the universal circulation of money. Like Heraclitean fire and mystic soul, monetary value is a single entity that in a sense persists (albeit transformed) through all exchanges. Just as the individual is mortal and yet contains in his soul the immortal fire that persists beyond the transformation that we call his death, so money contains permanent value that persists beyond its transformation into goods."

Richard Seaford Money and the Early Greek Mind (2004) p.237

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Money Wisdom #247

"...the power of money... all embracing, imposing a single, universal power on all things without destroying their diversity."

Richard Seaford Money and the Early Greek Mind (2004) p.224

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Money Wisdom #246

"[Peace] was... ...the ultimate encompassing value [for the Iroquois], since it was about the relation of humans to the cosmos as a whole, the ultimate 'imaginary totality'. Yet logically, it was entirely premised on the prior existence of its opposite. Without war, 'peace' is meaningless. In a sense, then, the wampum belts themselves - or, perhaps more accurately, the process of weaving them together - was itself a model of the process it was meant to mediate, one constantly reproduced in ritual: of converting the potential for destruction into harmony by integrating it into a larger social whole."

David Graeber Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value - The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001) p.145

Monday, January 13, 2014

Books, books, books

I'm having a hard time with the last couple of posts/essays I've been writing. I'm not going to go on about them, here. I enjoy doing my 'ramble' pieces, but sometimes it feels good to put something out there with a little more polish and structure to it. Or, at least I hope it will feel good if and when I ever finish them.

Meantime, I just want to give a brief update on my reading. I have this idea at the back of my mind that eventually I'll be able to publish a list of works on Money organised around some coherent structure or set of themes that will be helpful to other folks approaching the subject. The good Lord Keynes complied a bibliography on the origins of money this time last year from a broadly economic perspective. Its a helpful listing, but I think mine would look very different.

Anyway, this post isn't that imagined bibliography. It just the books that I've bought/borrowed or been given most recently. Some I've coveted for ages, others are a lovely surprise. If they fire off any thoughts in your head along the lines of 'If you like that, you might like this' please do stick those thoughts in a comment.

I was very happy to see this sexy number turn up in my xmas stocking. "What's it got to do with Money?" Well, that would take some explanation. For economists who don't know... this guy is called Sigmund Freud. He's quite famous. He went on about sex, your mum and dad and all sorts of uncomfortable things. Having done my post On the Metaphysics of Freud I'm really keen to get my teeth into Tauber's book to see how my own thought stack up against Tauber's. I do hope he mentions Norman O Brown, cos I love Norman.

Carrying on the psychoanalytical theme for a moment, I borrowed this from my recent expedition to the BLPES.

It was only published in 2012, so I can forgive myself for not hearing about it. It looks like it has a similar approach to money and economics as the book I picked up from the Freud Museum last summer - Loaded Subjects ed David Bennet . Broadly, its the application of insights from psychoanalysis (clinical) to society and economics. It gathers these together under the Socioanalysis motif. Interesting to me, but as my love for Norman suggests I'm more of a theory man. I find the application of clinical analysis can make things very complicated, very quickly. But I shall read a few of the essays and let you know in due course.

Sticking with Psychology generally, I also borrowed this from the BLPES.

Its a neat and comprehensive guide to what psychology has had to say about money. Published in 1998, it has a pretty healthy amount of psychoanalysis in it, too. Albeit mixed in with a load of other psychologies with which I'm not much enamored - lots of statistical significance tests and all that malarkey. Twenty years ago I'd have thought it was the bees knees. I've just found you can get a secondhand paperback copy for around a tenner, so I'll definitely get this one to add to the shelf. Good as a reference at the very least. 

Next up its this odd book God and Money by Nimi Wariboko. It's a theology of money. My guess would be that its a unique work. I'm quite fascinated by it. It's a new perspective for me. Nimi hasn't done himself any favours with me by declaring his desire for a one world currency in the introduction, but never mind. I'll certainly be on the look out for a hard copy of this. Its a 2008 book. I've never seen anything like it, before.

From God to Gods... well Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors by Janet Lee Scott. I got this one a while back - November I think - but thought I'd include it here. Its about - among other things - the Chinese tradition of money burning. They burn 'hell money' to help the dead in the afterlife. Hell money isn't real money (it is possible to write a book on that short sentence, but you get what I mean) and apparently, for the Chinese, burning real money is bad luck. I'm keen to read this prior to my next burning on 23rd Oct 2014 - help put it in a new context.

Yikes. Getting hardcore now. I've seen this Derrida book mentioned a few time in my reading. Most recently in David Graeber's Toward an Anthropology of Value. I strongly suspect that I'm going to have the same opinion of it that Graeber hints at - he's unsurprised that Jacques finds the idea of the gift, impossible. A bit like the idea of forgiveness, also in Derrida's view impossible. Still, there is no way for me to resist a text with both Money and Time in the title. And despite reading the forward and then shouting racist (well, anti-french) abuse at Derrida (yes, I know he's French-Algerian) because of the logical contortions of the last five line sentence, I will persist. Perhaps it works better in french. 

The whole postmodernism thing passed my by during my LSE days - I think the word might have been banned in the Economic History department. I'm still not sure I really like the cut of its jib. I always find myself asking 'Yeah, but what is it? This thing you're talking about, is it an abstraction, is it real?' No doubt all that will become crystal clear to me, once I've read enough Derrida, Lacan, Foucault etc. #sarcasm

Which reminds me. I still have Foucault's The History of Sexuality Pts 1, 2 & 3 nestled between Freud and Jung on my top shelf (top shelf for all the sex books, obviously). 

Anyway, onward. You know I'm loving Marc Shell? He's the boss. Unfortunately no-one saw fit to buy me his latest offering on Wampum for xmas but never mind. I have got something else from the New Economic Criticism canon which I'll come to in a moment. But given my somewhat sketchy appreciation of postmodernism and my limited comprehension of critical theory generally I thought a quick bit of background study would do me the world of good. I fortuitously stumbled upon this in my local charity bookshop.

I was going to insistent that the charity used the funds I gave them to invest in shares or other such nefarious capitalistic activity, being that I'm not a fan of charity and all that, but given what Comic Relief does with its donations I felt they were fairly likely to invest in weapons manufacturers or tobacco companies anyway, so I just paid my money - all £1.99 of it - and kept my mouth shut. 

Smile. I'm joking (sort of).

For some reason, I know the name Terry Eagleton. I must have read an article or two. And without bothering to google him to confirm or deny this, I seem to think he's a lefty intellectual, Professor of Literature? Anyway the clincher was noticing a chapter on psychoanalysis and remembering that Marc Shell is also a Professor of Literature. I have checked the reviews on amazon. Apparently this is a corking little book. I'm looking forward to it. I like a stubby one every now and then.

Eagleton's book is - in large part - a preparation for this monster. A fabulous xmas gift. 

I still haven't forgiven myself for my poor reading of Marc Shell's Money, Language and Thought. I knew it was brilliant when I was reading it but I also knew I was - for the most part - just not getting it. Tackling 420 pages of Mary Poovey without some preparation would be asking for trouble. I came to this one through Diane Coyle's review on her blog - I remember Diane saying it was great but not easy and quite long. Given that Diane reads about fifteen books a day, and has a Phd in reading very difficult things, I thought a bit of preparation on my part essential. God knows when I'll get around to it, but that word 'Genres' is the clincher for me. I'll have to read it sooner of later. I've discussed before the idea I explored in my dissertation that (musical) genre discovery/creation is in some sense a representation of (or, actually is) economic growth.

Whilst I'm on the literary theme, I also picked up Ezra Pound's Selected Poems and Dylan Thomas Selected Works on that same visit to the charity shop. I mean the clue is in the name but Ezra Pound has a lot to say about money and language - I'm looking forward to reading what Robert Anton Wilson has to say about him. And obviously Dylan Thomas is just God. And its his centenary this year. 'Nuff said.

I've made a start on this one already.

I'm not sure its going to be hugely significant for me. I have few problems with the way Viviana sets out her stall in the opening chapter. But its well written and plainly she knows her onions. (What is it with Money books and crap covers? That one is almost as bad as Glyn Davies' A History of Money)

On the other hand, this one I have a stronger feeling about.

I noticed this a while back but I was put off slightly by the thinking that it would be, more or less, a sociology of exchange relations and economy in areas of intimate service. Not only prostitution, but also intimate nursing care and that sort of thing. Well, I think it is to some extent. But plainly, given her previous work (above) Viviana is very strong on Money. I've read my fill of books that pay little regard to Money, so I'm very hopeful that this work will have interesting things to say about the sex/money nexus. As I've said many times, that's very very important.

And last in this little round-up....

You probably know who Dorothy Rowe is. She was quite famous I think. I have no idea. But title a book 'The Real Meaning of Money' and at some point you're bound to fall under my radar. This a was a BLPES borrow. I'm not sure what to make of it. Ms Rowe seems to have written on many subjects. 

I'll reserve judgement. I've noticed I can buy it for just a couple of quid so I might do that, have a copy on my shelf and wait for it to pop into my life. 

I'm quite into the whole idea of 'waiting for the right moment to read a book'. Letting them come to you as it were. I appreciate it's not a particularly logical way to approach it, but I'm cool with that. It does seem to work. Reading Norman O Brown's Life against Death this summer for example, that was just a mind blowing experience. I knew the book ticked the right boxes for me - money, psychoanalysis, philosophy - but I waited (mainly by chance I have to say) until the right moment to read it. I think I called it 'immersive reading' in my ramble on it. At the end of the day, some of these books are the result of a lifetime's thought and work. I know I can come across as a bit flippant, but really, I think its important to try to respect that. If you approach a book like its a fast food, to be consumed just to get the calories into you, then you're limiting your appreciation. I prefer to savor the experience as much as I can. 

On which note; I still haven't done cover to cover on good old Thomas Crump. 

Maybe he'll be my summer break read this year. Then again there is gloriously named Mrs A Hingston Quiggin who's Survey of Primitive Money sits on my shelf awaiting my full attention.

One last thing. If I started listing all the books I want this post would never end. So I'll just mention one (well, one in addition to Marc Shell's Wampum). I want The End of Kinship. Its a critical review of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (which I've never seen or read). So the plan is, see the play, read the book. I know it sounds a bit off piste - like what the hell has it got to do with Money? But its by Marc Shell. And the first chapter is called Civilisation and its Discontents (economists - that's the title of one of Freud's most important books). I don't know exactly what it has to do with money, but I want to find out. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Money Wisdom #255

"Time is money - says the vulgarest saw known to any age or people. Turn it round about and you get a precious truth - money is time."  George Gissing

quoted in Adrian Furnham and Michael Argyle The Psychology of Money (1998) p.253

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Money Wisdom #244

For Marx, money was thus an irresistible and 'radical leveler,' invading all areas of social life. By homogenizing all qualitative distinctions into to an abstract quantity, money allowed the 'equation of the incompatible.' Half a century later, Simmel confirmed Marx's diagnosis, dubbing money a 'frightful leveler,' which perverted the uniqueness of personal and social values. 'With its colorlessness and indifference... [money] hollows out the core of things... ...their specific value and their incomparability.' Indeed, in his analysis of prostitution Simmel recognized 'in the nature of money itself something of the essence of prostitution.' Of all social relationships, prostitution, noted Simmel, was the most striking instance of mutual degradation to a mere means,' thereby connecting prostitution to the money economy - 'the economy of means in the strictest sense.' Max Weber, too, pointed to the fundamental antagonism between a rational money economy and personal ties, as he observed that 'the more of the world of the modern capitalist economy follows its own immanent lass, the less accessible it is to... ...a religious ethic of brotherliness.'

Viviana A Zelizer The Social Meaning of Money (1994) p.8

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Money Wisdom #243

"Who am I to condemn you, O Dives,
I who am as much embittered
With poverty
As you are with useless riches?"

Ezra Pound To Dives
(Dives is a biblical word meaning 'Rich Man')

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Money Wisdom #242

"Theologians treat money paradoxically: Although money is everywhere, relentlessly connecting and desiccating all private, public and sacred spaces, as a theological category it remains unanalyzed. The monetary system has either been outrightly neglected as if it is not theological enough or has not been addressed directly as yet. This book addresses the issue of religion and the monetary system, offering a model of rigorous and innovative scholarship for examining money as a major theological-ethical category. This theological-ethical study of the nature and role of money in contemporary societies goes beyond making ethical recommendations to providing a framework for understanding and critical reflection on the global monetary system. The study analyses the dynamics at work in the global monetary system and argues that the monarchical currency structure of the dollar, euro and yen may be moving toward a trinitarian structure of a democratic world currency. The overall purpose of this study is to interpret, evaluate and aid in the transformation of the global trade and payment system in the light of the dynamic relations of the triune God. Based on the inequities, ambiguities, and contradictions in the system uncovered by the framework, it makes a case for a denationalized single global currency as a means of redressing certain destructive dynamics in today's global monetary system."

Nimi Wariboko God and Money - A Theology of Money in a Globalizing World (2008) p.1