Edited by Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell
Chapter 2: Toward a political economy of money
Modernity has always been accompanied by conflict over the nature of money. For at least four centuries, philosophers, political economists, and sociologists have divided over questions of the origins, the functions, and the meaning of money. Reflection on the conflict typically presents the protagonists as split between two camps, often labeled metallists and chartalists. Noting the existence of these two positions is a significant advance over assuming a position without acknowledging rival theories. However, such an acknowledgment is inadequate as a guide to understanding the stakes of the conflict, in large measure because those stakes extend beyond the realm of economics. A narrow view of the conflict over money limits our ability to see how money impacts on political economy broadly conceived. Thus, what is necessary here is a story of money complete with an account of the story’s own relationship to political economy. Before laying out that story in its complexity, it seems worthwhile to introduce two goals such an analysis will pursue. The first goal is to align the relationship between the development of money and capitalism. Too thin an account of money often leaves us with a simplified binary question: whether or not a given social system has money. Since so many systems for so many centuries have had money, it appears either that they also had capitalism, or that there is no relation between having money and having capitalism.
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