Money and Memory

At a moment when money seems the only measure of value, it is vital to open up other means through which we can invest in one another, circulate what we treasure, make a claim on what we hold in common. In addition to considering alternatives to money, it is worth remembering where money came from, what meanings it engendered. In this regard, I was struck by economic anthropologist Keith Hart’s evocation of money’s etymological roots, from Moneta, the Roman Queen of the gods, Juno. He observes:

Moneta was a translation of the Greek Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, each of whom presided over one of the nine arts and sciences. Moneta in turn was clearly derived from the Latin verb moneo, whose first meaning is ‘to remind, put in mind of, bring to one’s recollection” (other meanings include ‘to advise, warn, instruct or teach’; and later ‘to tell, inform, point out, announce, predict). There seems little doubt that, for the Romans at least, money in the form of coinage was an instrument of collective memory that needed divine protection, like the arts. As such, it was both a memento of the past and a sign of the future. (Hart, Money in an Unequal World, 2001 p. 256).

Art itself seems a domain where these meanings and memories of value can be contested. Might we direct it toward a different valence for money as such?

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