The color of money and the nature of value: Greenbacks and gold in postbellum America

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105 Scopus citations

Abstract

Money measures value in market economies. Money's own value is socially constructed since people attribute worth to a medium whose physical characteristics are essentially irrelevant to its monetary role. Money works best when it can be taken for granted and its social construction is hidden. During the greenback era, two monetary alternatives (gold-based money and paper money) were debated, which raised many questions about the nature of monetary value. Using a "macrocultural" approach, we analyze the rhetoric of greenbacker and bullionist writings to study the social construction and deconstruction of a taken-for-granted institution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1556-1591
Number of pages36
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume101
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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