WHO: Felix Martin
WHAT: MONEY: The Unauthorized Biography
WHEN: Published by Knopf March 5, 2014
WHERE: The author lives in London.
WHY: “An improbably lively account
…refreshingly free of jargon and long on ideas.
“What is money? If you think you know the answer, then you may not have thought hard enough about it, a problem that kings and commoners alike have shared throughout history.
“The Micronesian residents of the island of Yap, long a case study in the history of money, reckon currency by giant stones that, even if sunk in the ocean and therefore inaccessible, nonetheless have value. Their system matches the symbolic abstraction of money with a concrete basis for it. However, writes Martin in this improbably lively account, that concreteness no longer underlies our modern economy: ‘The vast majority of our national money—around 90 percent in the US, for example, and 97 percent in the UK—has no physical existence at all.’
“So is money merely symbolic? By one measure, perhaps. But Martin seeks a deeper understanding, relating money especially to power: If on one hand it served as an instrument of rule for sovereigns, it also reined in those sovereigns as something even mightier than they. By that light, as one medieval philosopher formulated it, money ‘is not the property of the sovereign but of the entire community that uses it.’
“Martin expands on this provocative idea, suggesting that money is a system for allocating economic risk ‘by making a simultaneous promise of stability and freedom.’
“Refreshingly free of jargon and long on ideas—including the thought that if it’s money that got us into our current mess, it’s money that can get us out of it.”
“This is economics written with sharp pacing and often amusing perspectives, raising mundane considerations of supply and demand to philosophical discussions of the meaning of value.” —Vanessa Bush, BOOKLIST
“Breezy, fluent, discursive, and informed.”
Publicist for this title:
Erinn Hartman | 212-572-2345 | firstname.lastname@example.org