The origins of money: evaluating chartalist and metallist theories in the context of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia
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Tracing the origins of money in archaic Greece (roughly 900-500 BC) and ancient Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC, this thesis assesses the applicability of Chartalist and Metallist theories of money's origins. It is demonstrated that Metallism does not withstand a historical test given the marginality of trade, both domestic and foreign, in the period when money and, subsequently, coinage emerged. A wide range of evidence - archeological, etymological, literary and numismatic - demonstrates that money emerged in the context of religious practice and ideology of archaic Greek societies marked by socio-economic hierarchies and inequalities. Money was first embodied in the portions of sacrificial bull's flesh distributed by religious authorities during the rituals of communal sacrificial meals. Purporting to allocate to each his 'just' and 'equal' share, the redistributive rituals created a façade of social justice and equality via the use of money. From roasted bull's flesh, money evolved into sacrificial roasting spits (obeloe), and, finally, into coinage, which initially served as a symbolic representation of roasted bull's meat. A reciprocal relationship between the development of coinage and the establishment of the civic polis is further explored. Whether in Homeric societies or in civic poleis, the power of money and coinage was ideological and 'egalitarian'. Distinctly non-commercial origins of money as a phenomenon of a Homeric proto-state and, subsequently, as a creature of a civic polis support the Chartalist theories. Yet, there is no evidence that Greek money and coinage emerged as a unit of account in which taxes to the state were denominated. The use of money in a fiscal context developed later in the classical period. Yet, evidence in support of the more traditional Chartalist monetization mechanism pertains to votive offerings in the form of miniature figurines produced by religious establishments as substitutes for contributions in actual goods. Finally, in the context of centralized redistributive temple-economies of ancient Mesopotamia, the evidence of clay tokens is utilized to formulate a hypothesis according to which money was introduced by the temple as a certificate of fulfilled contributions to the temple-state. The 'certificate of contribution' hypothesis institutionalizes Chartalism within a concrete historical context.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Statement of the problem and methodology -- Chartalism and Metallism as two contending perspectives on the nature and origins of money -- On the evolution of Carl Menger's monetary thought: a response to revisionists -- Non-commercial perspectives on the origins of money and coinage: a survey of interdisciplinary literature -- The role of religious ritual and ideology of 'distributive justice' in the emergence of Greek money and subsequently coinage -- A 'certificate of contribution' hypothesis of money's origins in ancient Mesopotamia -- Conclusions