This is the abstract of my PhD thesis, submitted in March 2018.
The full thesis (330 pages, 4MB) can be downloaded here, but until the final version is confirmed, you need to request a download password by contacting me and agree not to pass this version on to others.
The Grammar of Money –
An Analytical Account of Money as a Discursive Institution in Light of the Practice of Complementary Currencies
Since the global financial crisis in 2008, complementary currencies – from local initiatives like the Brixton Pound to timebanks, business-to-business currencies and, of course, Bitcoin – have received unprecedented attention by academics, policy makers, the media and the general public. However, at close theoretic inspection money itself remains as elusive a phenomenon as water must be to fish. Economic and business disciplines commonly only describe the use and functionality of money rather than its nature. Sociology and philosophy have a more fundamental set of approaches but remain largely unintegrated in financial policy and common perception. At the same time, new forms of currency challenge predominant definitions of money, their implementation in laws, and financial regulations. Unless our understanding of money and currencies is questioned and extended to consistently reflect theory and practice, its current misalignment threatens to impede much needed reform and innovation of the financial systems towards equity, democratic participation and sustainability. After reviewing current monetary theories and their epistemological underpinning, this thesis proposes a new theoretic framework of money as a ‘discursive institution’ that can be applied coherently to all monetary phenomena, conventional and unconventional. It also allows for the empirical analysis of currencies with the methodologies of neo-institutionalism, practice theory and critical discourse analysis. This will here be demonstrated in a transdisciplinary triangulation concerning three sets of data from the diverse field of complementary currencies, the publications of the Bank of England and monetary laws from the United States. The findings do not only demonstrate the heuristic value of the theory of discursive institutionalism in regard to money and complementary currencies, but highlight how regulatory and legal definitions even of conventional money lack the coherence and clarity required to appropriately explicate monetary innovation. Accordingly, this study concludes with recommendations for monetary theory, policy and research that can address the current inconsistencies.