What is Money?

Anthony Giddens in his novel “The Consequences of Modernity” brings up connecting points proving that the world today is still in a modern era.  Giddens breaks the world up into time periods and the most recent being the modern era, many sociologists argue the contrary, that this era is it’s own new stage in human history.  Giddens talks about language, power, technology, money, etc.  Giddens stresses that money has such an important impact on our society, an impact more complex than things like language or power.

Giddens is trying to answer the long debated question, “what is money?”.  Referencing Leon Walras’ simple explanation to this question that “money does not exist” Giddens expands on and tries to improve this point.  This point though, has already been improved in the eyes of Giddens by Keyne’s writings which emphasize that money being identified with a debt.  Giddens decides to improve this idea even more and very interestingly states “money is a means of time-space distanciation, Money provides for the enactment of transactions between agents separated in time and space.” It is tough to define this phrase, especially because the word distanciation has no meaning in any dictionary.  Giddens here is saying that money is our way of possessing things.  Money guarantees property of a particular item to an owner.  People are comfortable leaving their house for a couple of days because they know it is their house, they only know it is their house though because they paid for it and no one else did.  If the house just simply had a sign on it claiming reign to your house you may not want to leave it for very long, it’s easy for someone to just come replace your sign.

Money is our way of feeling possession of things without actually possessing that “thing” at the moment.  Money is also a way of exchange, a measure of power, a type of debt, and the list goes on.  This concept of money has been going on way before the modern era, but Giddens is concerned with how money in the modern era is different than it was in any pre-modern civilizations.  Giddens goes on to reference Parsons and his idea’s of how money in the modern era has changed.  The most evident example almost everyone can relate too is how money now circulates, without “money” ever actually being present.  Money can now be looked at, in the words of Parsons, as “information lodged in a computer printout.” Parsons views money as a circulating medium.  Giddens does not necessarily agree with this statement and believes that money cannot be defined so simply.  Money cannot be looked at as a circulating medium because it is not constantly circulating, it is being exchanged at instantaneous moments between two people representing a new form of ownership.

The concept of money has changed greatly from era to era but it has not been greatly changed since the modern era started.  Technology has been advanced so our ways of using money have been made more complex and have differed, but our concept of money representing possessions has stayed the same.

6 thoughts on “What is Money?

  1. I think the idea of the world today being in the modern era is very interesting. Unfortunately, our society never really lives in the moment, instead in the future. We are always on to the next big thing. Money, however, seems to remain a constant factor to everyone everywhere. I really like the way you described money; our way of feeling possession of something without actual possession. This demonstrates the idea of money as a token. I disagree with Giddens idea of money in this era being different from pre-modern eras because although the forms have changed, the underlying theme has not. Due to modernization, money evolved into various forms such as credit cards, checks, etc. However, it is still the same token as it was in the pre-modern era.

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  2. Your interpretation of Giddens’ definition of money and the use of it in the modern era is very interesting and easy-to-understand. What I found most interesting in your post was your statement that, “Giddens here is saying that money is our way of possessing things. Money guarantees property of a particular item to an owner.” My question to you is: what would you classify the newer forms of money medium, such as Bitcoin or Byte Money? On page 41 Giddens says, “The lay individual cannot necessarily provide formal definitions of terms like ‘capital’ or ‘investment’ but everyone who, say, uses a savings account in a bank demonstrates an implicit and practical mastery of those notions. The newer electronic forms of currency in an ‘account’ is a newer form of capital that many people cannot define but are able to use. I was interested in how you’d define electronic capital that is not real as a guarantee of ‘property’ in a sense.

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  3. “People are comfortable leaving their house for a couple of days because they know it is their house, they only know it is their house though because they paid for it and no one else did. If the house just simply had a sign on it claiming reign to your house you may not want to leave it for very long, it’s easy for someone to just come replace your sign.” This is a really good example on how money is our way of possessing things. I disagree with Giddens when it comes to money being different in modern era from pre-modern era. Money still has the same meaning as it did in per-modern, just being used in a different form then what it was used for then.

    JF

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  4. The question of what money is a question nobody has the answer to. The author says that, “Giddens here is saying that money is our way of possessing things. Money guarantees property of a particular item to an owner.” Money is our way of possessing things which includes being the owner of a certain item or place. Money is also a means of transaction that has allowed people to specialize in a certain good or practice. The evolution of money has allowed globalization and modernity to occur. The knowledge about money became a substantial part of our lives and the world. This knowledge impacts decisions regarding certain things such as purchases and the future. Giddens says, “Knowledge of the high rate of divorce might affect he very decision to marry, as well as decisions about related considerations” (42-43). Giddens thought about divorce rate applies to money too as this knowledge can impact the decision of what you want to do. Money can be used to purchase anything which is a problem that wasn’t intended. Is the world too dependent on something that really is just a piece of paper?

    Stephen

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  5. CJ,

    Your post has a useful focus on a single topic: money. You build a defense of Giddens’s argument about the acceleration (not displacement) of modernity when you note: “The concept of money has changed greatly from era to era but it has not been greatly changed since the modern era started.” I wonder if the same thing could be said for other symbolic tokens. Has cultural prestige, for example, changed in kind or degree in the modern period?

    DM

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