Money and Metaphysics
What is money? Money functions as a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of value, but this is what money does, not what money is. There is a very deep paradox at the heart of money, because money is not itself, but what it represents. Money is the representation of social agreements—agreements about who is obliged to whom, about what is more or less valuable, about what can be changed or altered in the past and the future, and about what must stay the same over time. Far from being a simple thing, money is metaphysical: social, political, abstract, and weird.
Although economists tend to think of money only as a “veil” that covers the true reality of exchange relationships, money actually has the power to control which exchanges and which economic activity take place, at all, because money is essentially a form of credit, an expression of approval and judgment of affirmation by some human beings in favor of the activities of others. However, most of us (and most economists) are either confused about or in denial of the fact that money is not a commodity, but a form of credit that is issued into existence almost entirely by private bank loans. And new money is created not on the basis of pre-existing savings or assets, but on the basis of demand for credit and willingness of bankers to supply it. This means that the private banking system has enormous power over not just their own investments, but over the amount and kind of credit available to the entire economy, whose priorities are wildly different from that of the speculative classes. This seminar will introduce the history of money and the formation of the modern monetary system based on private financing. It will then look at the contemporary politics of debt, austerity, and class warfare in order to explore possibilities for concrete struggle against the class power of bankers and megafinance.
Facilitator: Joshua Ramey is a writer, teacher, and activist who studies political economy and anti-capitalist political theory. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Villanova University (2006) and is currently Visiting Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights at Haverford College. He is the author of The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal and Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency. Visit his website for more information.
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Money and Metaphysics
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