Description: Since the middle ages, English law consistently construed monetary value as an expression of sovereign power. Starting in the 1660s, John Locke attacked this assumption by insisting that monetary value depended in practice not on the value stamped on coins by the sovereign, but ratheron the "intrinsic value" of their bullion content. In doing so, he severed monetary value from political determinations by appealing to a theory of money that was grounded in the practices of interstate commerce. The recognition that interstate exchanges of money stood in tension with sovereign claims over the determination of currency values was organic to the Continental world of finance and banking. It was also an intensifying preoccupation of British monetary thought from the sixteenth century. Locke's metallism, widely condemned today as a theoretical regression, was what allowed him to conceive money as a medium of commercial social interdependencies that were distinct in constitution from political determinations. (Paper will be circulated shortly)
Bio: Andrew Sartori is professor of history at New York University. He is the author of Liberalism in Empire (University of California Press, 2014) and Bengal in Global Concept History (University of Chicago Press, 2008), and he coedited Global Intellectual History (Columbia UP 2013) with Samuel Moyn. He is also coeditor of the journal Critical Historical Studies.
Co-sponsored with the Social Theory Workshop.