Skip to main content

Introduction

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
The Power of Money
  • 580 Accesses

Abstract

The Introduction notes some caveats. The historical section examines ten episodes from 1900 to 2000, chosen to illustrate the book’s key themes and arguments. While presented broadly in chronological order, they are not intended to offer a survey of economic or financial history. The evidence is taken from literature, the arts, politics, philosophy and social sciences as well as economic history and thought. Another caveat is that the definition of ‘money’ is broader than that used by economists. The approach is eclectic, multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural. Each of the chapters is self-contained and can be read separately, but they contain a unifying idea, approached from several angles. These are brought together in the concluding chapters (Part III).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

eBook
USD 24.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 32.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. 1.

    The atmosphere of the age is brilliantly evoked by Stefan Zweig in his memoirs (1942).

  2. 2.

    In this book I use the term ‘culture’ both in its sociological and in its artistic senses, that is, to denote the values, beliefs, attitudes and practices of a society, social class or group and/or its creative output. I trust that it will be clear from the context which meaning I intend to convey in referring to it. When I refer to the outlook or culture of a society in its broadest, most philosophical terms I use the German expression, Weltanschauung.

  3. 3.

    I launched Central Banking Publications Ltd, a business targeting a world-wide community (a business now 30 years old and still growing) at a time that coincided with the coming of the World Wide Web and of email. The business was buoyed by the new ease of communication and global audience created by these stunning innovations.

  4. 4.

    A good guide to the state of entrepreneurial activity is provided by the annual reports of the Global Enterprise Monitor (GEM), founded in 1999 as a joint project between Babson College (USA) and London Business School (UK). Based on GEM data, about 10% of the world’s working age population of some 4.5 billion is trying to start a business or has started and run one in the past 3 years or so; many of these will also source and/or deliver their products and services across national borders.

  5. 5.

    Economists would be guilty of disciplinary imperialism if they insisted that money must accord with their definition of it and that any broader use is illegitimate. This is going far too far. It assumes money is an identifiable thing with certain essential features, like a table. But money is not like that. It has no irreducible, unchanging, nature. It does not have to be a means of payment; according to many authorities its key feature is as a unit of account and it served as such probably hundreds or even thousands of years from ancient Babylon on without necessarily being used as a means of payment. Moreover, the economic definition of it, seemingly so clear, is full of unresolved complexities. Take the idea of a ‘ store of value’. What does that mean? Does it mean, for example, that if I do not buy a cup of coffee when offered one now but keep my money, I can buy that same cup of coffee later, when I choose? Obviously not. So, I can store the equivalent of this cup of coffee. But what does that actually mean? It turns out that the three features of money that make up the economic definition are, in combination, a value-free, utopian, almost mystical idea. See Hadas (2018). There is no reason why every form of money, what passes for money, should conform to this abstract idea. To pluck money as an abstract idea out of its social context, to examine it as a specimen under the microscope, is even to do violence to it, to begin the process by which it becomes a force of short-termism, of alienation.

    Discussion of the ‘nature’ of money is reminiscent of that between two schools of German historical thought at the end of the nineteenth century. The question was this: Was the classical Greek economy the same as ours or different? Max Weber dismissed the argument by pointing out that we wouldn’t be interested in the Greeks unless they were different and we couldn’t understand them unless they were the same as us.

  6. 6.

    I omit, for example, any extended treatment of the debate on so-called threatened shortage of international money in the 1960s, the ‘ Triffin dilemma’, the creation of special monetary asset in the International Monetary Fund, the SDR, the massive effort to make this artificial unit the centre of the international monetary system, the worries concerning ‘global imbalances’ that erupt from time to time, and much of the debates about ‘reform of the international monetary system’—all these have been ideas that failed (and often deserved to fail), or problems that turned out to be non-problems.

  7. 7.

    Or in the models used by central banks to set interest rates. Indeed, some central bankers are keen to downplay the role of money in their work further on the grounds that a perception that central banking is ‘all about money’ might deter some women from applying for employment.

  8. 8.

    See Chap. 19 for a further discussion of this.

Bibliography

  • Global Enterprise Monitor (2019). 2018–19 Global Report. London: GEM.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hadas, E. (2018). ‘Three Rival Versions of Monetary Enquiry: Symbol, Treasure, Token’. A lecture given at Las Casas Institute, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University on May 29. New Blackfriars (forthcoming).

    Google Scholar 

  • Rajan, R. (2019). The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. (1922–1923). ‘The Social Psychology of the World Religions’, in Gerth, H. H. and Mills, C.E. From Max Weber Essays in Sociology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1948.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zweig, S. (1942–2011). The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European (German title, Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers), trans. Anthea Bell. London: Pushkin Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Pringle, R. (2019). Introduction. In: The Power of Money. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25894-8_1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25894-8_1

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-25893-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-25894-8

  • eBook Packages: Economics and FinanceEconomics and Finance (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics