ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Social Theory of Money

Money by Geoffrey Ingham, Cambridge: UK, Polity, 2020; pp 154, £45 (hardback), £14.99 (paperback).


In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Reserve (Fed) expanded its balance sheet to almost double its asset holdings from about $4.2 trillion (with a “t”) to about $7.4 trillion.1 India’s economy is valued at about $3 trillion. So, the Fed took value equivalent to India’s entire economy onto its balance sheet during the pandemic year. This may be causing some global asset froth, yet the world has not fallen apart, instead it has endured. Americans were cut cheques worth thousands of dollars. This kind of money creation boggles the mind of the average citizen. It is also entirely beyond the ken of the discipline of economics, which has no place for money in its toy models of its video-game world. With people turning to conspiracy theories in anger and despair, it has never been more important to understand the “social technology” of money.

This is what Cambridge sociologist Geoffrey Ingham has spent a career doing. As a leading social theorist of money, his earlier work, The Nature of Money2 remains the benchmark of what money is and why it has the capacity to bear value. If money is conventionally defined as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account, what enables money to function as such?

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Updated On : 9th Jul, 2021
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