Value is treated as a social institution, and money substituted for the Walrasian auctioneer. The outstanding characteristic of real-world markets now comes into view: agents can act individually, without prior arrangement with other agents, so long as they possess a means of payment for transactions. The conceptual origins of money are explored with reference to the need for liquidity, which through a process of mimetic polarization creates a single standard or currency. Historically, challenges to a prevailing monetary regime have taken the form of currency crises, which amount to a contest over who should hold sovereign authority in a society. On this view a new way of conceiving of economic value becomes possible. Arguments by Simiand, Simmel, and Keynes in favor of an institutionalist conception of money are considered, and the eccentricity of economics in relation to the other social sciences criticized.
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