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The grammar of money: an analytical account of money as a discursive institution in light of the practice of complementary currencies

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Leander Bindewald
Publication date2018
Number of pages330
Awarding Institution
  • Bendell, Jem , Supervisor, External person
  • Chapman, Ian, Supervisor, External person
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish
Externally publishedYes


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 and
their implementation in the law and financial regulation. 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.