DV451      Half Unit
Money in an Unequal World

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Nigel Dodd S277 and Prof John Hart


This course is available on the MPA in International Development, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies and MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This is a single term course consisting of 10 x 3 hours workshops for up to 30 Masters students. The course will introduce students to approaches to money from sociology, anthropology, development studies, geography, political economy and cultural theory. The course extends an ongoing dialogue between the course organizers, an anthropologist and a sociologist, and will draw on major theoretical approaches and historical studies to examine how money operates – its social organization and governance, its production in global and local financial networks. As a measure and symbol of economic inequality, money is both a problem for development and potentially a major part of its solution. Students will therefore investigate how new and alternative forms may help us to rethink and re-organize money and mount a sustained challenge to prevailing economic systems. The lecture-seminars will cover the following topics:

Week One: Capital in the global distribution of wealth

Overview of course: the organization of money and global capitalism; the world’s monetary institutions; global, regional, national and local politics of money; world money, national currencies and the future of money.

Week Two: What is money and what do people do with it?

The social functions and meanings of money; special vs. general purpose monies; spheres of exchange; personal vs. impersonal money; earmarking; money and scales of value.

Week Three: The origins of money

Competing theories of the origins of money, barter vs. tribute; money and gift exchange; Simmel’s theory of money; the state theory of money.

Week Four: Money as credit/debt

The social, institutional and cultural connections between money, credit and debt; banks and the production of money; money and the ‘debt problem’; money as public debt.

Week Five: The rise and fall of national currencies

The geography and geopolitics of money; history and future of state currency; states, central banks and monetary governance; gold and international money; Bretton Woods and its aftermath; world money.

Week Six: The history and ethnography of finance

The concept of financialization; history of finance and the growth ofmanaged money; finance, securitization and new forms of money (CDOs, derivatives etc.).

Week Seven: Community and complementary currencies

History of monetary reform, ‘monetary utopianism’ and alternative currencies; theory and history of LETS, Time Banks, labour money, microcredit, etc.

Week Eight: Digital commerce, e-money and mobile money

The digitalization of money; virtual money; history of digital currency; mobile money (M-Pesa); the Bitcoin phenomenon.

Week Nine: The Euro

Globalization and the future of world money; history of European monetary integration and the present crisis; the rationale for currency union and the prospects for other regional unions.

Week Ten: Money in the making of world society

General review. Is a human economy possible? Is money a central means to such an economy or its antithesis?


30 hours of lectures in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

Dodd, N (1994) The Sociology of Money (Polity)

Dodd, N. (2014) The Social Life of Money (Princeton University Press)

Graeber, D. (2011) Debt: The First 5000 Years (Melville House)

Hart, K. (2001) Money in an Unequal World (Texere, previously published as The Memory Bank, Profile, 2000, available at http://thememorybank.co.uk/book)

Hart, K. and V. Padayachee 2013 A history of South African capitalism in national and global perspective, Transformation 81/82, 55-85.

Hann, C. and K. Hart (2011) Economic Anthropology (Polity)

Ingham (2004) The Nature of Money (Polity)

Zelizer, V (1994) The Social Meaning of Money


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in January.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2014/15: 32

Average class size 2014/15: 33

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills