Frozen Desire: Meaning of Money

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9781566491808: Frozen Desire: Meaning of Money
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The best single book I have ever seen on the history, sociology, literature, cultures, and philosophy of money.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A discursive and idiosyncratic appreciation of currency, from British novelist and former Financial Times correspondent Buchan (High Latitudes, 1996, etc.), who, the subtitle notwithstanding, never manages to construe its many-splendored meanings. Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author offers hit-or-miss audits of the mediums of exchange humankind has used and abused down through the years. Characterizing money as ``incarnate desire'' (in the sense that takes individual wishes and transmits them to the wider world), he compares the dichotomous teachings of Jesus with those of Muslim prophets, who viewed the religious and socioeconomic spheres as an indivisible whole. Buchan goes on to assess the varied implications of coinage, the just-price construct of medieval theologians, the invention of double-entry bookkeeping by Fra Luca Pacioli, Europe's lust for precious metals in the Age of Discovery, and the emergence of bank notes (which undermined the sovereignty of monarchs). Covered as well are the fiscal discipline a gold standard imposes on spendthrift governments, the sundry roles played by money in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the latter-day ascendancy of creditors (including junk-bond king Michael Milken) over borrowers, and capital as the sine qua non of belligerencies ranging from revolutions through wars of conquest. At the close, however, Buchan abruptly changes course. In the stated hope that the Age of Money (like the Age of Faith before it) will soon draw to an end, he exits with an impassioned albeit unsubstantiated diatribe indicting money as the principal cause of environmental destruction, global warming, overdevelopment, perpetual conflict, and other ills to which modern civilization is heir. These often murky essays will add precious little to anyone's understanding of what makes the world go around. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review:

Many business writers tend to suffer from the mental burden of covering seemingly unsophisticated or uneducated people who earn more in a month than they do in a year. James Buchan seems to have this problem in spades. A British writer with a superb education, an adventurous spirit, highbrow tastes, and a grandfather (John Buchan) who was a famous novelist, he has labored for many years as a correspondent for the Financial Times--a noble soul locked in the most pecuniary of papers. As this book makes clear, he loathes money with an overriding passion, and dreams of a society without it. It would be wrong to dismiss Buchan as a crank simply because he purports to loathe the riches he finds in this country (all the while building a successful career built on globetrotting and expense accounts). He is better seen as an aspiring Ruskin or Carlyle, one of those dissenters who strike a necessary and even appealing note of anger and nostalgia while failing to put a halt to the processes they decry or to further the causes they advocate. -- Commentary, David Brooks

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Buchan, James
Published by Welcome Rain Publishers (2001)
ISBN 10: 1566491800 ISBN 13: 9781566491808
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James Buchan
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