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The three faces of the coin : a socio-economic approach to the institution of money

Burns, Tom and DeVille, Philippe and Gauci, Bernard and Baumgartner, Tom (2003): The three faces of the coin : a socio-economic approach to the institution of money. Published in: European Journal of Econimic and Social Systems , Vol. 16, No. 2 (2003): pp. 149-195.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT This paper develops a broad, multi-faceted approach to the socio-economics of money. The aim is to elaborate models with which to describe and analyze money and money systems in modern societies. No single theory is conceivable but a complex of interlinked theories can help us understand and explain many aspects of money: (1) money as a means to represent and communicate value; (2) money as technology (money, like other technologies such as keys, carpenter tools, automobiles, factories, and nuclear power stations, embodies in its design particular rules and collective representation(s) and is associated with a variety of techniques for using it); (3) monetary orders as socio-technical systems that are in part designed, administered and regulated (there are institutional arrangements or rule regimes -- in particular the monetary order and policy, property rights, and markets -- relating to access, control, use, and management of money and money processes); (4) multiple perspectives, meanings, and uses of money within diverse institutional domains and social settings, for instance, the universalizing qualities of money as well as its particularization in concrete social and moral settings; (5) contradictory uses and purposes of money in modern societies: among others, as a medium of exchange, as a standard or measure of value; as a basis for expanding productive capacity ("capital") or initiating projects and programs; as a source of social power. Section I examines the meaning and normative regulation of money and money uses. Section II introduces and develops the idea of money- or exchange-value as distinct from substantive-, use-, or particularistic-values, and the transformation of one type of value into another through particular institutional arrangements and processes, e.g. markets. Section III analyzes the social construction of money through complex institutional processes and the establishment and maintenance of binding definitions of the social fact or reality of money. In Section IV we consider the regulation and stabilization of money systems -- as complex, changing systems that may fail or collapse, causing widespread economic, social, and political crises. Section V provides a summary of a number of key points and

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