An Economic Anthropology Blog
Maurer observes the way in which people structure their “understandings of what money was, is, and...what money...can become” as an “evolutionary process.” We tend to see money as a thing that didn’t exist during times of subsistence that turned into trade (within communities then outwards), that turned into money based on growing desires and geographical limitations. Maurer states that there are shortcomings to this story though: some argue that money is “a commodity in itself,” and others that it is purely a “token of an existing relationship.”. The currencies used as money ranged from shells to metals, and though some see these things as intrinsically valuable due to their ability to not degrade, to be transported, others say that those values are actually “of human convention.” This can be seen today. With no gold standard and no intrinsic value, paper currency means nothing. But this paper is backed by the government, by other institutions in society, and it introduces this idea that the economy is not an entity in itself but a complicated web of relationships interweaving many institutions. Other shortcomings that Maurer mentions are with the framing of money as a product of evolution--no form of money has replaced the previous, and has certainly not become more efficient.
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