Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Money Wisdom #261

"Money possesses distinctive abstract properties which cannot be successfully incorporated with the substantive claims of extant theories, whether of society in general or of the economy in particular. In such theories attempts to formulate generalized, substantive claims about the operation of money in society have largely failed. Money does not possess qualities which condition how and why it is to be used. Money cannot in this sense embody the substantive arguments of social and economic theories regarding the nature of economic action and the institutional, political and cultural framework of economic life in general. Money's indeterminacy is its sole distinguishing feature. While no material or symbolic object conditions how and why it is to be used, only money possesses this as its defining characteristic. It is precisely because of this that money lends itself so readily to theoretical manipulation in sociology. But for the same reason, such manipulation can only ever narrow the scope of inquiry into how money works and distort understanding whenever such an inquiry is attempted. An essentialist approach to the nature of money is not simply an optional indulgence which can be safely confined to the higher reaches of philosophy and social theory. It is on the contrary a fundamental requirement for an approach to monetary analysis which is conceptually robust and empirically sensitive. Only by conceptualizing money at this abstract level can patterns, variations, and inconsistencies in the way it is used and perceived in different societies be fully grasped and explained."

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.152

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