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Monetization and Social Life
Viviana A. Zelizer

In her article Viviane Zelizer reviews the state of the art of sociological and anthropological contributions to the study of money. She focuses on the related processes of monetization and commodification in relation to the social and cultural context. Three questions figure prominently in her article. Firstly, are there forms of social relations which are incompatible with monetary exchange? Secondly, does monetization inevitably transform the quality of social life? Thirdly, what are the causes and consequences of different types of monetary transfers? In relation to these questions she advocates a cross­-disciplinary approach to the interactions between market transactions and other aspects of social and cultural life. . (back)


A Palace for a Penny
Private Property and Ritual Transactions in Post-Socialist Poland
Longina Jakubowska

The interactions between market transactions and other aspects of social and cultural life is taken up by Longina lakubowska in her analysis of the relationship between property and money in post-socialist Poland . In spite of the country's gradual transformation to the capitalist economic model, many transactions are governed by non­-monetary principles. Through a detailed description of the case of a former manorial estate in southeastern Poland , she highlights the complexities of property transfers between a peasant village community and the estate's pre-war gentry owners. She argues that monetary transactions are complicated by the historical hierarchies of prestige and embedded in present-day social relations and perceptions of moral order that predate communism. (back)

Coins for Blood and Blood for Coins
From Sacrifice to Ritual Murder in the South African Lowveld, 1930-2000
Isak Niehaus

Taking as a point of departure the escalation of rumours of ritual murder and blood sucking in the latter years of Apartheid and the new South Africa, Isak Niehaus shows how residents of Bushbuckridge draw on important contrast between an earlier period of subsistence agriculture - in which objects such as coins and animals were sacrificed to the ancestors or to mine snakes to ensure life, health and rain - and a contemporary period of wage labour - in which coin diggers, witches and ritual murderers illicitly exchanged blood for money. As told in the present, these stories protest about the subordination of life to money and express a nostalgic longing for a time when exchanges of coins for blood were guided by a striving for collective well-being. (back)

The Price of a Bed
Migrants and Money in Cape Town
Erik Bähre

Erik Bähre investigates the widespread phenomenon of informal financial self-help groups. Through a case study of one particular group organized by Xhosa migrant women in Cape Town, he shows how the members use money to build social relationships and solidarity in a threatening social environment marked by economic malaise, crime and HIV. The sense of protection and solidarity gained by participation in such a group, however, appears to be not all-embracing. Although the members stress the feelings of support and solidarity, it is equally c1ear that the dangers and horrors of South African society can only be kept at bay temporarily. Bähre shows that the financial support and flows of money create anxiety, indebtedness, conflict, and envy between people who depend on each other. He argues that we can only understand the relationships between group members and other relations of (financial) dependency by taking loc al discourses about witchcraft into account. (back)

Goed en slecht geld
Gesprekken in een Ghanees dorp
Sjaak van der Geest

Linking up with longstanding debates in anthropology, Sjaak van der Geest addresses the question of the moral nature of money. On the basis of detailed ethnographic data, he investigates local perceptions of money in Kwahu-Tafo ( Ghana ). He shows that money is not considered intrinsically good or bad, but that its valuation depends on how it is gained and spent. While there are misgivings about its illicit accumulation - for instance by forms of sacrifice similar to those described by Niehaus - and selfish a-social use, money as such is appreciated as the main guaranty for a happy life. (back)

The Double-Sidedness of Money
Arjo Klamer and Harry van Dalen

In the last contribution the economists Arjo Klamer and Harry van Dalen explain the double-sidedness of money. In agreement with Zelizer, the authors propose an interdisciplinary approach of the study of money. They argue that economists generally focus on the function of money as a standardized means of exchange and measurement, enabling efficient transactions of goods and services. This, however, is just one side of the coin, the side with the numbers on it. The other side, however, is equally important. There we find the symbols that express the relation between money and the state. This side alludes to social, political and cultural values like credibility, trust, political unity and national identity. They illustrate their argument with some reflections on the introduction of the euro. They argue that the 'exchange' side has been taken care of but that as long as the other side is not based on a shared European identity, the euro might turn out to be a failure. (back)