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of commodities. This gives freedom and

flexibility to the modern world. As Simmel noted

in The Philosophy of Money (1907 [trans. 2004]), when a

feudal lord demanded a specific quantity of honey

or poultry from his serfs he directly determined

the nature of their labor. But as soon as a money

levy is imposed, the peasant is free to pursue any

activity that will raise the sum. But there is another

side to this capacity to store abstract value. Saving

money removes it from the process of production

and, according to Keynes’s “paradox of thrift,” may

cause unemployment.

From this perspective, money is a token credit

that is assigned a nominal value by a money of

account – pounds, shillings, dollars, cents, euros.

Money does not take its value from its substantive

commodity content, but from the existence of

goods that can be bought and, more importantly,

debts that can be discharged. This alternative

theory stems from attempts to understand early

capitalist credit instruments – private bank notes

or bills of exchange – and from works such as

Georg Knapp’s The State Theory of Money (1924

[trans. 1973]). States issue money to pay for their

purchases, which the population must accept in

order to meet their tax payments. Moneyness is

assigned by the issuers’ (banks and states) denomination

of credit in abstract value (money of account)

and in their promise to accept it back in

payment of a debt – the repayment of a loan or a

tax demand. The promise may be backed by

precious metal, or some other commodity; but

this is not essential – as modern dematerialized

money demonstrates. Money is constituted by the

social relation of credit–debt. As Ingham (2004)

argues, for something to be money it has to be

issued as a liability of the issuers – that is to say,

the issuer promises to accept it in payment of a

debt owed.

Weber’s analysis of money was influenced by

both sides of the Methodenstreit dispute: by von

Mises’s economic theory and also, more importantly,

by Knapp’s historical “state theory.” In Economy

and Society (1978), Weber notes that, as the

largest maker and receiver of payments, the

state’s role in the creation of money is inevitably

paramount. Moreover, for Weber, money is not a

“neutral” medium of exchange, but a “weapon” in

the “struggle for economic existence.” The production

of money and the regulation of its “scarcity”

and the value of money are socially and politically

determined by the clash of interests. “The public

treasury does not make its payments simply by

deciding to apply the rules of the monetary

system which somehow seems to it ideal, but its

acts are determined by its own financial interests

and those of important economic groups” (172).

Money consists in abstract value (media of exchange

and means of payment) which is also

its own measure (money of account). According

to Simmel, “Money is one of those normative

ideas that obey the norms that they themselves

money money


represent” (The Philosophy of Money, 1907 [trans.

2004]: 122). Money is essentially a promise, denominated

in the money of account, made by the

issuer that the issued tokens will be accepted

back in payment of a debt. This makes it acceptable

for the discharge of any debt within the sovereign

monetary space, circumscribed by the

state’s imposition of the money of account, in

which prices are posted and debts contracted.

This quality of moneyness has been made more

obvious with the disappearance of all precious

metal monies and monetary standards. States

pay for goods and services with their issue of

tokens which become sought after because they

are the only means of discharging tax liabilities.

Private issues of bank notes are also accompanied

by the promise that they will be accepted in payment

of any debt owed to the bank. But, until

banks joined the giro network headed by a statesponsored

public, or central, bank, their issued

money was unstable. Money is an expression of

sovereignty (Michel Aglietta and Andre´ Orle´an, La

Monnaie souveraine, 1998). Weak monetary systems

are as much the result of a weakness of the state

as they are of any economic weakness – for

example, post-Soviet Russia and Argentina.

After moneyness has been established this way,

it can become a commodity whose value is determined

by its exchangeability for goods (purchasing

power) and other moneys in foreign exchange

markets (exchange rate). In other words, once

money has been produced, then economic analysis

is applicable; but it cannot explain money’s

existence. Furthermore, the economic analysis of

the exchange value of money in relation to goods,

and other currencies, needs to be supplemented

by sociological analysis because the scarcity of

money is socially and politically determined. At

the macro-level, the supply of money is structured

by the rules and norms governing fiscal practice

(for example, sound money principles), which are

the outcome of a struggle between economic

interests in which economic theory plays a performative

role. In capitalism, the major struggle

between creditors and debtors is centered on

forging a real rate of interest (nominal rate minus

inflation rate) that is politically acceptable and

economically feasible. On the one hand, too high

a real rate of interest will deter entrepreneurial

debtors and inhibit economic dynamism. On the

other hand, too low a rate or, more seriously, a

negative rate of interest (inflation rate in excess of

nominal interest rate) inhibits the advance of

money-capital loans. On the micro-level, creditrating

produces a stratification of credit risk that

regulates the demand for money by means of differential

interest rates and the refusal of loans.

This has an autonomous impact on the reproduction

of inequality through “Matthew Effects”: the

rich receive low-interest credit and the financially

excluded fall prey to “loan sharks.” Other important

areas that require sociological analysis are the

social and political construction of inflation expectations

by central bankers and the financial

press. A sociology of inflation flourished in the

1970s in Fred Hirsch and John Goldthorpe, The

Political Economy of Inflation (1978), but waned

with the decline of its subject matter. This was

closely related to Keynesian theories of “costpush”

inflation which reverses the implied causal

sequence in the quantity theory of money. Rather

than the quantity of money determining the price

level, it is the market power of economic interests,

in the Weberian “struggle for economic existence,”

to bid up their prices and (especially) wages

that triggers inflation. This increased demand for

money is met in the capitalist system by the power

of banks to create money by extending loans. This

monetization of private debt is a distinctive characteristic

of the capitalist system, as Ingham has

argued. This depiction of the monetary process in

capitalism is now acknowledged insofar as monetary

policy does not attempt directly to control

quantities of money, but rather attempts to

dampen the demand for money by the manipulation

of interest rates. GEOFFREY INGHAM


– see family.

Montesquieu, Baron Charles de


A political theorist, social critic, and an early precursor

to sociological analysis, Montesquieu was

born into a wealthy French aristocratic family and

studied natural history, law, and physiology, before

becoming a lawyer. As a result of a generous

inheritance, he traveled widely in Europe, spending

considerable time in England. In 1721, he

published the Persian Letters, ostensibly a satirical

portrait of French and especially Parisian manners

as seen from the perspective of two Persian travelers,

but on a deeper understanding a caustic social

critique of the church, Louis XIV, and the aristocracy.

In 1734 he published his Reflections on the

Causes of the Grandeur and Declension of the Romans,

which charts the historical rise and decline of the

Roman Empire using ideal types as a methodological

device. His major work, however, remains

the Spirit of the Laws (1750 [trans. 1914]), which,

money Montesquieu, Baron Charles de (1689–1755)


written over twenty years, comprises thirty-one

books. Among the achievements of this great

work was to delineate the laws of society (see law

and society) as well as to classify governments

according to their underlying principles: the republic

based on virtue; the monarchy based on

honor; and despotism based on fear. As a leading

Enlightenment liberal, he championed republicanism

and, as a means to prevent despotism, advocated

the separation of powers – that judicial,

executive, and legislative powers should remain

independent – modeling his arguments on what

he had witnessed in England.

As well as examining universal laws, he also

sought to explain the differences between societies,

seen holistically, in terms of the influence

of various ecological and social factors such as

climate, religion, education, and the maxims of

government. He also made significant contributions

to the study of law and demography.


Moore, Barrington, Jr. (1913– )

One of the few American-born sociologists to

pursue questions of classical dimensions, Moore

was a contributor to themes as disparate as Soviet

studies, the history of privacy, and social scientific

method. Moore’s preeminent work is his historical

sociological study, Social Origins of Dictatorship and

Democracy (1966). The legacy of this book extends

into the twenty-first century on two fronts. First,

Moore’s works (in company with those by Reinhard

Bendix, Jr.) renewed the Weberian tradition

of comparative historical sociology, which had

been almost brought to a halt as the Nazis came

to dominate Europe before and during World

War II. Second, in an era when Marxist theory set

the standards in left-wing sociology and normative

political theory, Moore concentrated on the

semiautonomous rise of the state, in addition to

capitalism, as a key to understanding the development

of modernity. Subsequent comparative historical

sociological studies of political power, the

state, and social revolution, notably including

works by Michael Mann and Theda Skocpol, owe

enormous debts to Moore’s extraordinary work.

In Social Origins, Moore explains the differing

paths towards the modern nation-state taken as

the result of the political movements of lords and

peasants – independently and in relation to one

another – in premodern agrarian states. Spanning

six major cases (England, France, the United

States, Japan, China, and India), with secondary

observations on Russia and Germany, Moore

asked one simply stated question of the utmost

significance: under what conditions do lords or

peasants, or both, push historical developments

towards parliamentary democracies or authoritarian

regimes or communist systems? In the course

of his work, he identifies three historical paths.

The first two are “top-down” paths – the bourgeois

revolutions leading to (in his terms) capitalist

democracy and the abortive bourgeois revolutions

leading to fascism. He also finds one “bottom-up”

path: the peasant revolutions leading to communist

regimes. In all cases he finds that the ways in

which lords and peasants reacted to the challenge

of commercial agriculture played a leading role.

But this summary is much too schematic to do

justice to Moore’s sensitivity to the variations between

historical cases. Like Max Weber’s comparative

studies on economic ethics of the world

religions, Moore refuses to sacrifice the messiness

of history for the sake of analytical clarity. His

work poses challenges to readers, but it has a

stronger ring of truth as a result.

Another of Moore’s works, Injustice: The Social

Bases of Obedience and Revolt (1978), takes a different

methodological approach. Here Moore concentrates

on one case, the German working class

from 1848 to 1920, to ask: why do people quietly

accept being victims of society in many instances,

yet passionately rise to take action in certain situations?

In a reflective epilogue, Moore suggests as

one lesson of his book that obligations between

rulers and the dominated should be reciprocal.

Here again, the lesson of the book gains its credibility

from the detail. Other books include Morality

and Persecution in History (2000), Privacy: Studies in

Social and Cultural History (1984), and Political Power

and Social Theory (1958). IRA COHEN

moral panics

A disproportionate public reaction in response to

actions deviating from established social and cultural

norms; such actions range from acts of

provocation of cultural and historical sensibilities

to criminal offenses. Moral panics often arise in

relation to subcultural groups and youth culture,

addiction and religious deviations such as satanic

rituals. Further targets of moral panics have been

other marginalized or disadvantaged social

groups such as welfare recipients or refugees. A

distinct set of moral panics surrounds acts of

sexual transgression and violence.

Moral panics are based on a perceived threat

to mainstream society. Often this threat is constructed

in relation to third parties, usually children

and adolescents, who are seen as potential

victims of illicit practices (sexual abuse, or drug

Moore, Barrington, Jr. (1913– ) moral panics


pushing) or deemed liable to deviant practices

themselves (for example, the panic surrounding

violence and homosexuality in American comics

sparked by Frederic Wertheim’s Seduction of the

Innocent, 1954).

While moral panics as a response have an original

cause for concern and are thus to be distinguished

from forms of mass hysteria or delusion,

they, as Stanley Cohen observes in Folk Devils and

Moral Panics (1972), diverge from other forms of

public reaction to a perceived moral or social malaise,

such as the formation of social movements in

relation to ecological risk, gender discrimination

or poverty, in that they are based on an exaggerated

threat: exaggerated either because the

actions that trigger moral panic are represented

inaccurately or because the threat itself is portrayed

as more serious than it is in comparison

to other problems.

The different processes and actors that are involved

in the exaggeration of perceived threats are

detailed in Cohen’s study of Mods and Rockers in

1960s Britain which first coined the phrase moral

panic. Crucial to the portrayal of subcultures as

“folk devils” are, according to Cohen, both legislative

and executive sections of the state and the

mass media, both impacting on public perception.

The mass media in particular have been implicated

in the formation of moral panics in subsequent

studies: Stuart Hall’s Treatment of Football

Hooliganism in the Press (1979), Chas Critcher’s Moral

Panics and the Media (2003), and Sarah Thornton’s

Club Cultures (1995) all highlight the indispensable

role of mass media, and the (British tabloid) press

in particular, in creating moral panics. Thornton’s

study furthermore highlights the complex interplay

between subcultures and mass media in

which subcultural credibility is derived from hostile

media coverage, whereas mainstream media

approval spells the death of subcultures.


moral statistics

– see social pathology.


This is a term that refers to injunctions of what

to do, and how to behave, in particular


All societies require notions of morality, since

individuals cannot conduct their lives without

norms to guide them. It is tempting but erroneous

to divorce moral norms from the time and place in

which they arose: hence the institutions of slavery

or cannibalism, while repellent to modern mores,

cannot be regarded as inherently immoral, since

they seemed normal and natural in particular societies.

Behavior becomes immoral when groups in

society begin to question particular lines of conduct

and espouse practical alternatives.

This is not, however, a purely relativist view of

morality since underlying particular historical

examples are wider notions of autonomy and

self-government which are crucial to morality.

The point is that these absolute values emerge

and it would be wrong to think of them as having

“stopping points” as if they are to be fully realized

in one society or another. Indeed, the notion of

morality has been bedeviled by religion and the

idea that an absolute value has to be timeless in

order to be absolute. God is seen as embodying

this absolute and is conceptualized as the repository

of a timeless absolute truth. There are absolute

values (autonomy and self-government have

been mentioned), but these absolute values can

only express themselves in relative form, that is,

in a particular time and place. The influence of

theology on morality has been to instill a dualistic

divide between the absolute and the relative so

that the individual is to “choose” one or the other.

Contemporary public debates often polarize

around relativists who argue simply that “beauty

lies in the eye of the beholder” and “there is nothing

good or bad but thinking makes it so,” and

fundamentalists who react against this relativism

by seeking to abstract values from their historical

context. The modernist belief in timeless absolutes

is not adequately dealt with by simply

turning it inside out, so that morality is merely

denied. The modernist view of morality must be

transcended, moved beyond, so that morality is

seen as the combination of the absolute and the

relative, the utopian and the realistic.

The problem with expressing morality as a timeless

absolute is that it inevitably becomes imbued

with a perfectionism that cannot be matched by

historical practice. A gulf between theory and

practice acts not as a stimulant to activity, but as

a paralyzing frustration – a distinction becomes a

dualism, an unbridgeable gulf that inevitably generates

cynicism and despair. Of course, every

individual acts in a way that breaches morality,

and the more serious the breach, the more explicit

the articulation of the moral norm. But where

morality is expressed in a historically conscious

fashion, this gap is an incentive to develop and

improve, not a source of impotence and passivity.

Morality becomes problematic when focused

upon the state. It could be argued that it is difficult

to see how the state can act morally when its

moral statistics morality


distinctive attribute is the use of force to tackle

conflicts of interest. The “morality” of the state is

of a distinctively propagandist quality, designed

to bully and coerce people into compliance.

As long as society was seen as “naturally” divided

into citizens and slaves, Christians and atheists,

men and women, and so on, then the use of force

against the others is not problematic. However,

once all are deemed to be individuals – all equally

entitled to natural rights – then the force of the

state becomes problematic from a moral point of

view. Liberals are right to see force as antithetical

to morality since it is impossible to act autonomously

and govern your own life if you are subject

to the coercive will of another. The use of force

destroys relationships since, to form a relationship

with another, one needs to be an agent and one

cannot be an agent if one is damaged, to a great or

lesser extent, by the acts of another. To use force

against another is to see them as a thing, an inanimate

object, and not a fellow human being.

The use of force by the state can be “justified” as

the lesser of two evils since there are all kind of

contexts in which the failure to employ counterforce

against a bully or thug makes a bad situation

worse, but it is hard to see how the use of force

itself can ever be moral. The problem with liberalism

is that it seeks to justify the unjustifiable

since its postulates of freedom and equality are

themselves projected as timeless absolutes. Antisocial

behavior cannot be given a historical explanation.

It is “naturalized,” that is, illicitly

presented as natural in the sense of being unchangeable,

so that the need for a state, an institution

claiming a monopoly of legitimate force, is

presented as eternal and inevitable.

Morality is sometimes seen as norms that are

imposed from on high. This accounts for the view

by youth in liberal societies that morality is inherently

hypocritical and corrupt. The word moral is

used pejoratively – a bad thing. There is something

to be said for this argument since state

functionaries cannot practice what they preach,

and religious figures present a theoretical piety

which their practical behavior belies. But it is

important not to see morality through the eyes

of those who deform it through hypocrisy and

equivocation. It is better to say that those who

say one thing and do another are negating morality

since neither they nor their victims can be said

to be governing their own lives or acting autonomously.

When morality is imposed from above,

threats accompany it. Those who abide by norms

out of fear of the consequences cannot be said to

be acting morally. Morality cannot be treated as a

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