I'm not sure how, but the first time I found Philippe Steiner's article "Who is right about the modern economy: PolanyiZelizer, or both?" it was available for free online. If you're interested enough you might be able to find it for free again.

In the article he mentions Jerome Blanc who writes about the fungibility of money and this is compared to Zelizer's "Social Meaning of Money: Special Monies". It made me think of some of the exclusive bank cards that are issued to big earners such as the American Express Black card and made me wonder whether the attention of politicians trying to clamp down on bankers bonuses might be directed elsewhere. 

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I have uploaded the article in French. I only have an offprint of the Theory and Society version. I hope this doesn't swamp the hook in this thread, but I found I had written extensive comments on it to PS:

I suspect that we agree there is something not right about Z and P, her from neglecting politics and him for overstating it. Each of them misses the bureaucratic level of capitalism (Weber), the sources of inequality of power.

 Both want to take on the economists, P for endorsing and facilitating the takeover of society by the market, Z for missing how society inserts itself in the market.

I feel that your opposition political/academic abstracts from what is specific to P and his followers, a socialist reaction to capitalism.

The idea of a strong contradiction between market and society belongs to agrarian civilization whose military elites saw markets and money as a threat to the foundations of their power in landed property, even as they needed them to pay soldiers and to maintain lavish expenditures. At the same time, some states saw the benefit of taxing commerce rather than having to confiscate whatever they needed. These societies oscillated between a more expansive regime of credit-financed commerce and a narrower preoccupation with violence and bullion. Aristotle, Alexander’s tutor, articulated the anti-market ideology even as his pupil’s armies consumed half a ton of silver bullion a day.

In modern times, the anti-market ideology has been taken up by varieties of socialist thinker, ranging from communists and nationalists to utopians and Christians, all of whom dreamed of escaping from capitalism into some organic fiction of the rural past. Polanyi is the most articulate spokesman of this tendency in the 20th century. Politics is conceived of as a corrective to the market drawing on moral sentiments.

Against this radical opposition of market and society are a variety of thinkers who hold that markets are in effect intrinsic to the human condition, if not in the extreme Social Darwinist form favoured by apologists for an uncaring capitalism. These would include Mauss, Simmel and Marshall. Such a position rests on the attempt to identify a humanized market capable of resisting its dehumanized form as capitalism. Politics is less an external force here as an expression of civil society.

Zelizer belongs to this latter category, having apparently swallowed the liberal version of American society which makes the market omnipresent and excludes a political alternative outside its logic. Instead people reveal their own purposes in a range of small everyday manoeuvres. She does not offer a vision, such as Polanyi’s, capable of changing the trajectory of the social whole in history.

Zelizer and Marshall on cultural values cutting across money as a universal medium.

Alfred Marshall pointed out that it is not uncommon for modern consumers to rank commodities according to a scale of cultural values. Other things being equal, we would prefer not to have to sell expensive consumer durables in order to pay the grocery bills. And we would like to acquire the symbols of elite status, such as a first-rate education. If you asked a British person how many toilet rolls a BMW is worth or how many oranges buys an education at Eton, they would think you were crazy. Yet all these things have been bought with money for longer than we can remember. So the universal exchangeability introduced by modern money is compatible with cultural values denying that all goods are commensurate. Nor is this just a matter of ideas; there are real social barriers involved. It does not matter how many oranges a street trader sells, he will not get his son accepted for Eton. And the gatekeepers of the ancient universities insist that access to what they portray as an aristocracy of intelligence cannot be bought.

This gives us a clue to the logic of spheres of exchange. The aristocracy everywhere claims that you cannot buy class. Money and secular power are supposed to be subordinate to inherited position and spiritual leadership. In practice, we know that money and power have long gained entry into ruling elites. De Tocqueville praised the flexibility of the English aristocracy, unlike the French, for readily admitting successful merchants and soldiers to their ranks. One class above all others still resists this knowledge, the academic intellectuals. And so we line up with Tiv elders in bemoaning the corrosive power of modern money and vainly insist that traditional culture should prevail.


I don't know whether I started to try to fit the idea that we split money and assign it places to what I was seeing but either way I feel it very strongly now when I think about lower league British football. Scratch the surface and you reveal characters that are investors at all sorts of different levels that slice up their pot and with two hands push over a chunk for a local team.

(These teams are then able to buy up all the good players from the other teams in the league and the dynamic changes. Hero to zero.) 



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