3rd Annual Gudeman Lecture

Anthropology Department
Hornborg_Gudeman Lecture
Event Date & Time
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Please join the University of Minnesota Anthropology Department for our 3rd Annual Gudeman Lecture:

“Toward a Multicentric Economy: Inverting the relation between money and value” featuring Prof Alf Hornborg of Lund University

Join us in person at the Humphrey Forum (301 S 19th Ave), or virtually on zoom. A short reception will be available to those attending in person.

Please register in advance of the event at z.umn.edu/3Gudeman-Lecture by March 10 at noon.

The Gudeman lecture is an annual lectureship featuring social and cultural anthropologists who work in the intellectual traditions to which Emeritus Professor Stephen Gudeman subscribed.

“Toward a Multicentric Economy:Inverting the relation between money and value”

Dr. Alf Hornborg, Lund University

Abstract: The mandate of economics has been to study the modern frameworks shaping economic behaviour – e.g., markets, banks, all-purpose money – as scientific objects comparable to gravity and thermodynamics, rather than to reflect on their cultural arbitrariness. Societies cannot decide to change the laws of gravity or thermodynamics, but they can decide to change the laws of markets. The reification or ‘objectification’ of the products of cultural processes is a recurrent phenomenon in human societies, encapsulated in the concept of fetishism. Money is taken to be a representation of economic value, yet like other fetishes it is actually what brings into being the very thing that it represents. This poses problems for all theories of value. Recent financialisation has made it evident that the fetishisation of money propels economic processes without any need for a theory of value. Any theory that proposes to provide a universalising account of economic value, whether based on labour, land, energy, or some other metric, tacitly accepts that there is a single measure of value applicable to all commodities. If, however, we invert the relation between money and value, refusing to say that money is a measure of value, we might instead acknowledge that the concept of value derives from the peculiar artifact of all-purpose money. This encourages us to question the assumption that everything can be valued in terms of money. To assert that ‘ecosystem services,’ women’s labour, or other ‘externalities’ are unpaid or underpaid is to implicitly suggest that they have a correct price, promoting the delusion that everything can be measured along a single, quantitative metric. To challenge neoliberal market fundamentalism, we must challenge all-purpose money and its conceptual abstractions such as singular measures of ‘value’ and ‘utility.’

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