ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reflections on Money


What exactly is money? This is the kind of question that readers of EPW revel in, and I have recently been reflecting on it after reading The Social Life of Money by Nigel Dodd, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics. In this recently published book Dodd treats his readers to a cacophony of views about the wider role of money from the greats in literature, philosophy, sociology and many other disciplines. Indeed, his book is more conceptual art than science, in the sense that it takes readers out of their comfort zone – especially if schooled in the economics department across the corridor from Dodd’s – is unsettling, and it appears to leave the fundamental questions it asks unresolved.

Dodd leads you from an insight into one aspect of money from someone not normally considered a monetary theorist, like Jorge Luis Borges, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Keith Hart, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to another, often contradictory but equally insightful. And while you are wondering how to make sense of it all – and Dodd’s book does not wear its scholarship lightly – he tells us that all of these ideas have something to offer. Money is too protean for one idea to capture. He is probably right, though this is disappointing, especially to economists like myself, more accustomed to colleagues rushing to judgment. Dodd luxuriates in the question, not the answer. Very “conceptual art”; not so much “modern economics”.

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