WOS 2 / Proceedings / Panels / Offene Infrastruktur / Open_Money / Felix Stalder / skript

Why money isn't all the same

Economists always tell us the same thing about money: it is a means of payment, a store of value, and an unit of account. Cold, stable, impersonal. This is a widely held opinion, also among cultural producers and artists. Gertrude Stein, for example, echoed it when she said: "Whether you like it or whether you do not, money is money and that is all there is about it". But money is a very complex and flexible thing. There is an intimate relationship between the forms of money that are in circulation and the kind of society through which it circulates. Money is at least as much cultural, social and political as it is economic.

The most dramatic example of this relationship is provided by global financial markets. Since the mid 1950s, a series of new instruments were introduced (along with selective deregulation) which had a profound impact on how these markets operate and their role in society at large.

New forms of money are likely to have a similarly profound impact on the development of the Internet. So far, the commercialization of the Internet has generated a backlash against its most progressive aspects. Above all, the sharing of information has come under attack from attempts to bolster the traditional copyright regime serving interests of the media conglomerates.

The current conflict pitting the "gift economy" against the "money economy" is one that the latter is bound to win, unless new forms of exchange are developed that can support a decentralized economy. Such developments must include new forms of money capable of supporting open exchange while still enabling content producers of all kinds to leave the repressive copyright regime behind and enter into new relationships with one another in their respective markets.

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