Monetary Moralities: Trust in Money and the Legitimacy of Monetary Orders

Kurt Mettenheim
Session Organizer:
Benjamin Braun
Friday, June 24, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
183 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
In recent years, financial crises and central banks’ “unconventional” policies have provoked something not seen since the Great Inflation of the early 1980s – signs of public monetary distrust. Endemic fraud and misconduct in the banking sector have undermined trust in the private pillar of monetary systems. At the same time, trust in the public pillar has suffered as a result of central banks expanding their balance sheets, which has sparked fear of inflation. When it comes to the implications of these developments for people’s trust in the institution of money, however, scholars face a conundrum – despite the mechanical evoking of trust as the sine qua non of money, surprisingly little is known about what it means to say that people have trust in money. There are arguably two main reasons for this. On the one hand, students of trust have paid insufficient attention to the historical, institutional, and technological details of monetary systems. How do different monetary systems “solve” the problem of monetary trust? Have financial innovation and technological change undermined the viability of established, central-bank centric solutions? On the other hand, as observed by a number of authors, the (re-)production of monetary trust is difficult to observe during “normal” times. Recent monetary and financial upheavals therefore offer a rare opportunity to study what happens when people begin to question the monetary order. Mirroring money’s disregard for disciplinary boundaries, this session brings together economic sociologists, political economists and anthropologists who share a common interest in the issue of monetary trust. Combining conceptual innovation and original empirical research, their contributions shed new light on the evolving relationship between monetary authorities, financial institutions, and money users.
Monetary Trust and Monetary Mythology, or: There Is No Transparent Central Bank
Benjamin Braun, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
Quantification and the Cultural Authority of Central Banks
Simone Polillo, University of Virginia
See more of: N: Finance and Society