« Riches is assumed by many to be only a quantity of coin, because the arts of getting wealth and retail trade are concerned with coin. Others maintain that coined money is a mere sham, a thing not natural, but conventional only, because, if the users substitute another commodity for it, it is worthless … and, indeed, he who is rich in coin may often be in want of necessary food. But how can that be wealth of which a man may have a great abundance and yet perish with hunger, like Midas in the fable, whose insatiable prayer turned everything that was set before him into gold? »
… thus wrote Aristotle in his book on “Politics”.
More than 2000 years on, it is far from clear that we as societies have developed an understanding of money that surpasses the conundrums the great Greek grappled with. Certainly the modern Greeks are grappling their own monetary conundrums. Only this much is clear: today money is everywhere.
Present crises and the emergence of new ideas are reshaping money’s forms, functions, politics and meanings in ways that promise to shape our societies for years to come. The conference which Axel Paul, Cornelius Moriz, and I are hosting in September at the University of Basel engages some of the problematic questions underlying attempts to obtain satisfying theories of money, as well as contemporary attempts to shape and change money. Our conference focuses on the politics of money (in the broadest sense), the different forms and functions of money, and utopias and dystopias of money. Read the rest of this entry »