This volume deals with the way in which money is symbolically represented in a range of different cultures, from South and South-east Asia, Africa and South America. It is also concerned with the moral evaluation of monetary and commercial exchanges as against exchanges of other kinds. The essays cast radical doubt on many Western assumptions about money: that it is the acid which corrodes community, depersonalises human relationships, and reduces differences of quality to those of mere quantity; that it is the instrument of man's freedom, and so on. Rather than supporting the proposition that money produces easily specifiable changes in world view, the emphasis here is on the way in which existing world views and economic systems give rise to particular ways of representing money. But this highly relativistic conclusion is qualified once we shift the focus from money to the system of exchange as a whole. One rather general pattern that then begins to emerge is of two separate but related transactional orders, the majority of systems making some ideological space for relatively impersonal, competitive and individual acquisitive activity.
This implies that even in a non-monetary economy these features are likely to exist within a certain sphere of activity, and that it is therefore misleading to attribute them to money. By so doing, a contrast within cultures is turned into a contrast between cultures, thereby reinforcing the notion that money itself has the power to transform the nature of social relationships.
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(228mm x 152mm x 16mm)
Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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