The Significance of Money Beyond Ingham's Sociology of Money

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Sgambati, S. (2015)

Understanding money requires that we first grasp what makes money so significant—so valuable—to us. The article thus examines the sociology outlined by Geoffrey Ingham and criticises its ontology of money as a measure of value underpinned by state authority. By contrast, it argues that money ought to be primarily intended as value in itself. Accordingly, money’s most specific attribute is none of its canonical functions but rather purchasing power: the power not to pay, or else the power to buy time. The latter is not the mere product of state (fiscal) agency, but is entangled from the start with the production of liquidity and the construction of speculative markets for debt. Thus the paper emphasises the importance of concrete bank discounting vis-à-vis abstract accounting in concrete processes of monetisation, and shows how modern money, far from cancelling debts, is historically constructed within liquid financial relations so as to “buy time” and systematically procrastinate the final “rendering of accounts” for debtors. As a result, money cannot exist without the simultaneous existence of a debt that it will never discharge.
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