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Workshop: "Rethinking Money"

University of Sydney
4 - 5 November 2013

The rise of finance in recent decades has engendered a distinctive style of critique, which portrays financial expansion in terms of the unstable growth of debt and fictitious capital, a process seen to lack foundations and cohesion. This style of critique seems to have become further entrenched since the financial crisis: even as capitalist finance is reconstituting some of its key modalities, critiques still center on its "unsustainable" character. This negative understanding of finance as a destructive force reflects a primarily normative perspective that has little to say about money and its ability to serve as one of modern life's key organizing forms. Indeed, the growing popularity of the claim that all money is essentially debt serves to displace questions related to the specific role of moneyness in capitalist society. This is not to imply that it is easy to identify "money," but rather to insist on the importance of theorizing moneyness and the way this complex quality is constituted through its various derivative forms. This workshop approaches the current conjuncture not as a confirmation of what we already thought we knew but rather as an occasion for much-needed conceptual innovation. It focuses squarely on the problematic of money and its ability to serve as a focal point for complex webs of economic ties, subjective investments and control mechanisms. Themes to be addressed include (but are by no means limited to) value and liquidity, complexity and commensuration, the relationship between money and law, the status (absence) of money in contemporary political theory, the relationship between the state and currency, the connection between theology and money, and the semiotic character of money.

Participants include Robert Meister (California, Santa Cruz), Douglas R. Holmes (Binghamton), Lisa Adkins (Newcastle), Miguel Vatter (UNSW), Lana Swartz (Southern California), Ute Tellmann (Hamburg), and Leigh Claire La Berge (Saint Mary's).

Abstracts of the workshop papers can be found here.

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please contact


What is Money thumbnail

It’s often said that money talks. But what exactly does money today say? In a world of Bitcoin, financial derivatives, cloud-connected loyalty cards, digitally mediated peer to peer lending and ever more mobile monies, it is increasingly difficult to define money and the forms it takes. If money is what money does, money’s complexity now makes it less and less easy to identify simply as a medium of exchange and a measure of value. From its ability to serve as one of modern life’s key organizing forms, to its depiction as a symbolic, mutually shared illusion, money has generated a long conversation about trust, economic ties and social relations.

This panel continues the conversation, using the contemporary problematic of money in an age of economic recession, currency crisis and austerity for a much broader discussion about the nature of money, credit and capital in the world today.


  • Professor Dick Bryan (panel chair), Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney
  • Professor Robert Meister, Department of History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Professor Lisa Adkins, Department of Sociology, University of Newcastle, Australia
  • Professor Douglas R. Holmes, Department of Anthropology, Binghampton University, New York
  • Lana Swartz, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
  • Assistant Professor Ute Tellmann, Department of Sociology, University of Hamburg
  • Professor Miguel Vatter, Arts & Social Sciences, University of NSW
  • Assistant Professor Leigh Claire La Berge, Department of English, Saint Mary’s University, Canada