What is money in the age of Bitcoin and currency crises?

6 November 2013

What is money
Professor Dick Bryan: "At the frontiers of money, there are no clear definitions, and hence no established rules."

A panel of international financial experts will debate the changing role of money in modern societies in light of new forms of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, at a Sydney Ideas event titled 'What is Money?' tonight.

In the wake of the global financial crisis and the continuing United States debt crisis, the role of money has fallen under greater scrutiny in recent years.

Set amongst a backdrop of European austerity, currency crises and looming recessions in Western economies, this discussion will address some common misconceptions over the historically specific meanings of money, and how new forms of digital currency such as Bitcoin are challenging established financial notions.

"Money is conventionally thought of as something that is defined by the state, and circulated by banks," said panel chair Professor Dick Bryan from the University's Department of Political Economy.

"Recent events - from the development of massive markets on financial derivatives, to a financial crisis, and subsequent questioning about government capacities to guarantee the value of money, are seeing our conception of money being questioned by people on both the left and the right of politics."

The 'What is Money' panel includes:

  • Professor Robert Meister (University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Professor Lisa Adkins (University of Newcastle)
  • Professor Douglas R. Holmes (Binghampton University, New York)
  • Lana Swartz (University of Southern California)
  • Assistant Professor Ute Tellmann (University of Hamburg)
  • Professor Miguel Vatter (University of NSW)
  • Assistant Professor Leigh Claire La Berge (Saint Mary's University, Canada)

Professor Bryan will point to private forms of money and payment systems, such as Bitcoin and Paypal, to unpick the ongoing "financialisation" of society.

"At the frontiers of money, there are no clear definitions, and hence no established rules," he said.

"Via the financial crisis, we have a glimpse of the idea that no form of money is truly safe, and that in response to crisis, the state is stabilising money on the run, in ad hoc ways."

The talk is presented by the Social Studies of Finance Group, in partnership with the Australian Working Group on Financialisation (AWGF) at the University of Sydney.

Event details

What: 'What is Money?', a Sydney Ideas event

When: 5.00pm - 7.00pm, Wednesday 6 November 2013

Where: Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, 174 City Road, The University of Sydney. Click here for venue information

Cost: Free and open to all with online registration required.

RSVP: Bookings essential. Contact Sydney Ideas on 02 9351 2943 or

Follow the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on Facebook here

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208; 0434 561 056

Email: 18511050011a22302e1c0d3d0b30085d187637011b603211