Explanations of Money and the Role of History in Social Ontology

Graham Hubbs, University of Idaho

Abstract: Money is a paradigmatic subject of social ontological analysis: it is omnipresent and seems possessed of talismanic powers. For the past century, there have been two predominant ways of analyzing the source of this power. The first treats money as a special sort of commodity, whereas the second treats money as general debt-clearing credit, usually backed by the authority of the state. Roughly following accepted nomenclature, I call accounts of the first sort “market accounts” and those of the second sort “chartalist.” Each of these accounts presents itself as an etiology of money. The goal of my presentation is to explore whether these etiologies are critical, or trivial, or something in between to understanding the ontology of money. I will situate my discussion within contemporary policy debates about the implications of Modern Monetary Theory, and I will close with some broad questions about the general role of history in social and political philosophy.

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