Love-Hate Relationships/History of Money

While taking a really good online course [Institute for Sustainability and Leadership: Money and Society] I have had to write an assignment for the first time in many years. Having been taken through Monetary History with a series of slides and associated papers, we were asked to develop our own theory on the main factor influencing monetary history, using examples, recurring themes etc. This is what I found myself writing, it was supposed to be 500 words, but this is over 1000. [Luckily, online courses do not assess.]

Human Interactions and System Creation

Sorry, I am out of time to shorten this … but very grateful for the way the assignment gave me an opportunity to put the ideas into words within the monetary context.

Systems, their Currencies and Functions (Moneystuff) are inventions of humans, not universal laws. Money stuff comes from human minds. How do brains/minds work to make these artefacts, cultures, organizations, institutions?

Theory: Bio-social-psychological learning from neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, suggest states of mind result from dynamics of experience through feedback loops (amygdala, hippocampus, cortex) acting on and responding to the complexity of internal and external happenings, bringing artefacts, cultures and institutions into the loop.[1]

LAW: Moneystuff is a product of mind-states projected onto the outside world.[2]

The states of mind existent in humans give rise to three different types of “projected cultural interactions” applicable to monetary history.[3]

These interactions conflict, are productive or degenerate, depending on use and particular context. Each can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the feedback loop resonates; hegemony takes hold. If projection is of a single interaction mode it will in time become dysfunctional, even though at first it may have shown promise of wellbeing. A single interaction mode may be useful by itself in particular circumstances, but reality requires flexible engagement with each as circumstances change.

DEPENDENCE – An experience of all humans (birds, mammals also) engenders a state of mind that obeys authority, feels envy and gratitude, seeks and gives help and security[4]. The monetary systems of Mesopotamia, Yap stones are decreed by law or custom equivalent to law, and refer to human necessity, agriculture, food, shelter. In authority and obedience responsive to need, they represent dependency interactions. The example from Rome seems to show how what was at first a productive fiat currency, Dependence, became dysfunctional, causing a switch to the next mode.

INDEPENDENCE or SURVIVAL As it develops, mind engages with attachment, separation, anxiety, loss of unconditional provision, but at the same time, gains experience of mutual support, and/or competition. “Me” realizes “Us” and “Them”. Entering the world of siblings and others, we echo how humans moved from hunter-gatherer living to settlements about 10,000 years ago, necessitating brain development overlaying more basic biology [Solms]. When competitiveness, fear, anxiety about scarcity or other threats to survival exist, the projection becomes fight or flight, us or them. Money becomes a commodity, capital, of which there is enough, or not enough[5].

Where Survival and Dependence co-exist, co-operative and collaborative systems develop. The Tally Sticks of the Middle Ages may look like “fiat”, and are established by the king’s decree, but in practice are exchange between the king and his subjects enabling the aims of each. However, it could be said that Survival became the sole interaction after the death of Charles I and the brief puritanical republic. Central banking and capitalism emerged at this time, alongside colonialism, fear of scarcity bringing exploitation. Laws passed in the 17th century allowed debts to be freely bought and sold, a social interaction became a commodity. In Survival mode plenty is achieved through “survival of the fittest”. Survival dominates later monetary history, helped by Adam Smith and the enlightenment putting reason above emotion not seeing the way in which emotion underpins all reasoning and enables it to be in tune with reality. Later, living within an already formed Survival understanding of Money, many believed the free market promised well-being. Neo-liberal philosophy is a degenerate form of Independence/Survival that diminishes both Dependence and the third interaction mode.

FUTURE (called Pairing in psychosocial literature) is the human ability to plan, perceive future, remember past, use tools, and join with others to regret, repair, and reproduce to find hope in the future, rather than repeat. This mode contains memory and desire, used alongsid ethe other two is genuinely creative. However, when used without the other two, pairing allows emotionality, fantasy and prejudice unchecked by evidence, to dominate. Many utopian proposals and conspiracy theories that hope to trigger monetary reform probably belong in this interaction, but I cannot find examples in monetary history where money or currency could be considered a projection of this type.

A monetary system that issues money as debt with interest diminishes this third interaction. It makes a destructive charge on the future of ourselves and our planet. Possibly Islamic Banking that restricts usury, may be one form of money that recognizes some aspect of “Future”, micro-finance schemes may also do so, but I do not know enough about either.

Prediction: Recognition of the failure of the neo-liberal monetary system, will lead to either a different form of Survival, or to a Dependent mode. For example, the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analyses the system failure, then supports a return to a regulation and gold standard, i.e. commodity money, exchange, limited by authority. This is again Survival, with a reach for something that can be identified as secure with competitive problems deemed soluble by appeal to authority. Positive Money seeks a monetary commission, but its own solution is to have a Money Committee taking the power of issuance away from banks, and deciding on how much or in what currencies money will be issued. This seems to be a return to a Dependent mode, though with good listening parents, the family will be allowed to participate. This could be reconcilable with the third interaction, but equally might see-saw between Dependence and Survival modes, as most solely rational functioning has done in monetary history.

A transformative system would include Future Pairing mode, acknowledging human gift, all our interaction modes, our capital. This may grow in small local cooperatives or transition groups, but none that has appeared has gained much traction[6]. I am intrigued by Bendell’s “Acknowledgement” function of money that seemed to me similar to “paying forward” or “what goes around comes around”, in which trust in goodness, remembrance of past worth, allows different ways of thinking about what money might become. If money were used according to observed circumstance for human-and-environment wellbeing rather than economic growth, its interaction mode would vary. I do not see any government at present able to formulate such a flexible monetary system. My hopes from this course are to be more able to so, but I cannot predict it.


Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.

Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored,

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.


[1] See e.g. Solms for neuroscience, Waddell for states of mind, Hogget for processes of cultural formation.

[2] Psychosocial references: Solms, Waddell, Maizels, Hogget, French.

Monetary History and socio-political references: Rowbotham, Standing, Davies, Zarlenga.

[3] Adapted from Wilfred Bion’s theory of basic assumptions in group unconscious and Robert French’s development of it in leadership studies where the assumptions are considered to be universal interaction modes that can be both positive and negative. The names above are mine, to apply the ideas better within 500 words.

[4] Maslow heirarchy of needs – food and shelter

[5] Neil Maizels:

[6] Joseph Beuys “What is Money?”



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