Approximations to the Use of Money and Payment Systems

The Systematic and Culturalist View of Money

Different social theorists have sociologically and anthropologically studied the evolution of the processes of social differentiation. Considering money as a means of communication symbolically generalised, Luhmann (2012)[1] unravels what other thinkers had already conceived: the objecti- vation, socialisation, and universalisation of money to the point of being considered as a social support. In that sense, money increases the probability of communication, where understanding and the process of selection or exclusion between hearer and speaker is facilitated. Along the same lines, CajaVecina is understood as an objectiviser of communication in the economic system.

Money is a reducer of complexity that, in interaction systems, allows for coordinating a great number of economic relationships.[2] However, by theorising money in that way, Luhmann leaves out the agentic power of it, power that had been already established by authors like Simmel. To overcome this problem, Zelizer (1997)[3] delves into the embedded meanings of money, developing the social and economic calculability processes that agents establish when they connect because of money and payment methods. In this way, Zelizer brings down the wall imposed between social and economic sciences in order to study this type of payment method.

In fact, Zelizer points out that money, and therefore payment methods, allows users to mark social and economic relationships. As a result, money as a support is not free from social reach and limitations, but through money individuals generate objectivising processes of the coin, but moreover they create, keep, or dissolve social bonds, in addition to control and establish inequalities. Individuals then will mark status, manage uncertainty, and administer their intimacy.

From Zeliner, it will be essential to see CajaVecina as an innovation in which social bonds are created, kept, and controlled and where the economy is merged with these processes, thus enabling a more complex relationship among the actors taking part. This relational dimension the author accounts for, plus the communicative one accounted for by


Luhmann, are a necessary but not sufficient condition to understand the CajaVecina phenomenon.

  • [1] Luhmann Niklas, Theory ofSociety, vol. 1, (Stanford University Press, 2012).
  • [2] Luhmann Niklas, “La economfa de la sociedad como sistema autopoietico”, Revista Mad, 29, 9
  • [3] Zelizer Viviana, The SocialMeaningofMoney (Princeton UniversityPress, 1997).
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