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The Significance of Money Beyond Ingham’s Sociology of Money

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2015

Stefano Sgambati*
Affiliation:
University of Naples Federico II, Naples [ste.sgambati@gmail.com]
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Abstract

Understanding money requires that we first grasp what makes money so significant—so valuable—to us. The article thus examines the sociology outlined by Geoffrey Ingham and criticises its ontology of money as a measure of value underpinned by state authority. By contrast, it argues that money ought to be primarily intended as value in itself. Accordingly, money’s most specific attribute is none of its canonical functions but rather purchasing power: the power not to pay, or else the power to buy time. The latter is not the mere product of state (fiscal) agency, but is entangled from the start with the production of liquidity and the construction of speculative markets for debt. Thus the paper emphasises the importance of concrete bank discounting vis-à-vis abstract accounting in concrete processes of monetisation, and shows how modern money, far from cancelling debts, is historically constructed within liquid financial relations so as to “buy time” and systematically procrastinate the final “rendering of accounts” for debtors. As a result, money cannot exist without the simultaneous existence of a debt that it will never discharge.

Résumé

Comprendre l’argent suppose tout d’abord de saisir ce qui rend l’argent si significatif – si précieux – à nos yeux. Cet article étudie la sociologie de l’argent élaborée par Geoffrey Ingham et propose une critique de sa conception ontologique de l’argent comme mesure de valeur soutenue par l’autorité de l’État. Par contraste, il affirme que l’argent devrait être principalement conçu comme une valeur en soi. L’attribut le plus spécifique de l’argent ne correspond à aucune de ses fonctions canoniques, mais s’identifie à un pouvoir d’achat : le pouvoir de ne pas payer, ou encore le pouvoir d’acheter du temps. Ce dernier ne dépend pas de l’État fiscal mais il est, dès le départ, indissociable de la production de liquidité et de la construction de marchés spéculatifs de la dette. L’article montre l’importance d’étudier les pratiques concrètes d’actualisation bancaire mais également de quelle manière l’argent, loin de supprimer les dettes, est construit historiquement à l’intérieur de relations financières liquides en vue d’« acheter du temps » et systématiquement retarder le « rendu des comptes » final pour les débiteurs. En conséquence, l’argent ne peut exister sans l'existence simultanée d'une dette qu’il n’annule jamais.

Zusammenfassung

Geld zu verstehen, bedeutet zuallererst zu begreifen, weshalb Geld für uns so bedeutsam, so wichtig, ist. Die Untersuchung beleuchtet die von Geoffrey Ingham entworfene Soziologie des Geldes und kritisiert die Geldontologie als ein staatlich kontrolliertes Wertmaß. Demgegenüber wird behauptet, dass Geld hauptsächlich als ein eigenständiger Wert konzipiert sein sollte. Das spezifischste Attribut des Geldes entspricht keiner seiner kanonischen Aufgaben, sondern dem Erwerb: die Fähigkeit nicht zu zahlen oder Zeit zu kaufen. Letztere ist nicht nur unabhängig von Finanzbehörden, sondern von Anfang an gebunden an die Liquiditätsbeschaffung und Entstehung spekulativer Schuldenmärkte. Der Aufsatz unterstreicht die Bedeutung, sowohl die konkreten Praktiken der Bankenaktualisierung zu untersuchen als auch auf welche Art und Weise Geld, anstatt Schulden zu tilgen, historisch innerhalb der liquiden Finanzbeziehungen auf den „Zeitkauf“ ausgerichtet ist und systematisch den Kontenabschluss der Debitoren verzögert. Folglich kann Geld nicht ohne die zeitgleiche Existenz einer Schuld bestehen, die es nie auflöst.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © A.E.S. 2015 

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