Prospects of Money: Theories, Developments, and Research Perspectives

Workshop at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research on January 23–24, 2020

Money is back on the agenda of sociology, cultural anthropology, political science, political economy, and history. Reasons for this renewed interest in one of modern societies’ most crucial institutions are manifold: the financialization of capitalism with its high-risk derivatives and monetary surrogates and the impact of financial crises; experiences of globalized flows of capital and people; the rapid and exponential growth of money supply and its influence on income and wealth distribution; the continuing tensions of the supranational common currency project “Eurozone” or between regions of the global monetary economy (some amounting to full-fletched “currency wars”); the emergence of diverse local means of payment and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Facebook’s Libra; or political movements targeting the monetary order.

In this revived research, money is usually neither examined as a neutral and technical tool for market exchange, nor in terms of wealth and prosperity (alone). Instead, it is viewed as a crucial component in the engine room of capitalist dynamics, linking economic, social, and cultural spheres. Strikingly many more recent studies are based on theoretical reflections on the “nature” of money. It seems that the research is producing new academically and politically relevant insights, especially through the conversion of well-established concepts and the investment in new theory-led arguments and methodologies. We want to trace this nexus of ongoing transformations of monetary relations and payment practices on the one hand and theoretical innovations and controversies on the other hand with regard to consequences for the study of money and monetary economies in the future.

Our aim is to identify shared and competing theoretical assumptions as well as compare and debate our assessments of historical and contemporary empirical phenomena and processes. We intend to create an opportunity to meet and openly discuss the different approaches and explore opportunities for future cooperation.

Program (PDF)