Below is the abstract I finally got around to finishing for Max Haiven’s project on money and art — on which there’s a lot of interesting material here, and an article here. As it happens, I think money has a lot to do with art, albeit assuming an expansive definition of its terms.
The Performance Metrics and Futures of Money
I argue that money does not measure a quantum of labour or the intrinsic value of a thing but, on the contrary, is an index of performance. Most economists would agree that money is a measure of value and yet, as John Maynard Keynes remarked, “to regard it as having value itself is a relic of the view that the value of money is regulated by the value of the substance of which it is made.” This, he went on to say, “is like confusing a theatre ticket with the performance.” Late nineteenth century debates about gold and paper money, or more general attempts to ground value outside the circuits of money—such as political economy’s labour theory of value—have been reiterated in the case of digital currencies such as bitcoin. As the wielder and guarantor of the de facto global reserve currency, the US government has recently launched various measures through which to regulate bitcoin transactions. I suggest that however modified by recourse to concepts of dematerialisation, even here substantialist theories of value vie with the Realpolitik of fiat money and, more importantly, that the mining of computational power was always derived from money’s singular characteristic as a metric of performativity. As with the theatre ticket, performativity concerns itself far less with the present or the past than with what might be anticipated of the future.