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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

4 - The Money Game


In this chapter, I will draw in greater detail on Karl Polanyi’s ([1944] 1957) analysis of the structural causes of human suffering that are immanent in the nineteenth-century idea of a free and self-regulating market, particularly for commoditized labor, and on David Graeber’s (2011) inquiry into the 5,000-year history of such commoditization. I shall again trace the structural repression that they illuminate to the logic of general purpose money, viewed as a specific human artifact attributed with a particular social and ecological inertia. Such inertia of artifacts has been experienced by any player of a board game, and it is no coincidence that the discipline of economics has found extensive use for game theory.1 The use of specific artifacts throughout human networks generates algorithmic regularities in social behavior that can be mathematically simulated. The current author makes no pretense to proficiency in such methods, but at a general level, I propose that the trajectories of human societies reflect the design of the artifacts that regulate their exchange relations, and that policies for transforming society thus cannot avoid considering how such artifacts are designed.

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