What is Money? From the Beginning to Bitcoin

Login to Watch  

Duration 01:00:14

City University of New York

For the past decade, English Professor Frederick Kaufman has focused his attention on the fiction that is money. His unorthodox insights into the ways of Wall Street have resulted in magazine articles for publications ranging from Scientific American to Wired, to Foreign Policy to Harper’s, invitations to speak on numerous podcasts, as well as television appearances on NBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business Network, and Democracy Now! Kaufman teaches at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and has guest lectured on both sides of the Atlantic, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and an address to the General Assembly of the United Nations.


Money is not what it used to be. Our dollars and cents have come to share the financial universe with “aliens” that go by strange names, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The European and Chinese central banks are experimenting with digital currencies that would transform banking as we know it. Meme stocks with no underlying value wreak havoc on Wall Street. No doubt, we live in a moment when our most basic understandings of money are being challenged. In order to gain some perspective on what’s going on—and a sense of what to expect going forward—Professor Frederick Kaufman will explore the 40,000-year history of this fiction we all agree to believe, with an eye on the future of money. He will explain how the present state of affairs came to be, and how cryptocurrency may not be all that different from the beads and shells of primitive money.


Recommended Reading:

The Money Plot: A History of Currency’s Power to Enchant, Control, and Manipulate, by Frederick Kaufman

Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, by George Gilder

Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber

The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350, by Robert S. Lopez

The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, by Karl Polanyi


Discussion Questions:

  1. Should I invest in cryptocurrencies?
  2. Should I be worried about the national debt?
  3. Should there be universal basic income?
  4. Should I be concerned about hyper-inflation?




2 reviews
5 stars
100 %
4 stars
0 %
3 stars
0 %
2 stars
0 %
1 star
0 %
Dianna Lord


The history of money turns out to be a weird and surprising thing. I enjoyed learning about the anthropologists, economists, politicians and others who have created the story of money.

2 years ago

What Is money

Professor Hoffman sure he has his act together. He is very interesting and entertaining with his presentation of the history of money in exchanges.
I am smarter and better informed than when I started.

2 years ago
Scroll to Top