The Anthropology of Money
Posted: 9 Jan 2008
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
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