This paper suggests that recent studies of the beginning of the Bronze Age and the growth of a bronze ‘industry’ have placed too much emphasis on the importance of social ranking and the control of resources by elites. Copper had been in demand for over 2000 years before the beginning of the Bronze Age. What changed at this time was the emergence of a technology that gave access to virtually unlimited copper supplies and contributed to a process of economic growth. Circulating metal took on the role of a proto-currency in certain areas and had a significant effect on local patterns of social organisation. It was not centrally controlled. Eventually, the end of the growth process led to increased competition and warfare. Studies of these processes are illuminated by looking at the circulation of metal and money in medieval Europe and by thinking of the social changes in terms of Douglas's’ grid’ and ‘group’ dimensions.