The Anthropology of Money

Posted: 9 Jan 2008

See all articles by Bill Maurer

Bill Maurer

University of California, Irvine - Department of Anthropology


This review surveys anthropological and other social research on money and finance. It emphasizes money's social roles and meanings as well as its pragmatics in different modalities of exchange and circulation. It reviews scholarly emphasis on modern money's distinctive qualities of commensuration, abstraction, quantification, and reification. It also addresses recent work that seeks to understand the social, semiotic, and performative dimensions of finance. Although anthropology has contributed finely grained, historicized accounts of the impact of modern money, it too often repeats the same story of the "great transformation" from socially embedded to disembedded and abstracted economic forms. This review speculates about why money's fictions continue to surprise.

Keywords: abstraction, commensuration, currency, finance, number, quantification

Suggested Citation

Maurer, Bill, The Anthropology of Money. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 35, October 2006, Available at SSRN:

Bill Maurer (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Anthropology ( email )

Irvine, CA 92697¿5100
United States

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