An Outline of the Origins of Money

An Outline of the Origins of Money
A new English translation of a forgotten German text that influenced cultural understanding of money in the early twentieth century.

Heinrich Schurtz's 1898 book has been a touchstone for economic historians, anthropologists, and philosophers interested in the nature and origins of money in various societies, including Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Marcel Mauss, and Karl Polanyi. In his brief book, Schurtz experimented with concepts about money, going beyond traditional economic paradigms. Drawing on an extensive range of archaeological and ethnographic sources, he reframed a theory of money to include its materiality, symbolic nature, relationship to forms of property, and its dual origin in "outside money" and "inside money." While it is not well known today, it was important to the theorization of money in the first half of the 20th century and its innovative synthesis offers galvanizing questions and insights into how value relations are formed and how currency systems are interrelated.

"On this subject, I only knew the excellent little book by the late Schurtz"--Marcel Mauss, 1914, Les origines de la notion de monnaie.

Publication Date: 
July 6, 2024