This photo and the next were taken at Place de la République in Paris 
on July 5 at about 11 PM.

In Signifying Nothing:  The Semiotics of Zero, Brian Rotman writes of  “parallel patterns of semiotic disruption” to describe how the introduction of the sign for zero affected arithmetic, perspectival painting, and economic exchange.  “Zero is to number signs, as the vanishing point is to perspective images, as imaginary money is to number signs.” Rotman is quoted in endnote 18 to Chapter 4 of MWA:

“If the xeno part of xenomoney threatened collapse of the world money system from the past, from unsupportable debt… the money part of it threatens… collapse from the future, from an unsustainable mutability of money signs created by the financial futures markets.”

“‘Xenomoney’ [as I write there] is [Brian] Rotman’s term for a certain kind of fictitious capital, supplanting paper money and viewed as “a sign able to signify its own future.”  (See also this article by Angus Cameron.)  “To paraphrase Rotman, [as I wrote in my preliminary notes for the book] mathematics not only creates the technical conditions for financial speculation but also the semiotic preconditions by naturalizing the empty signifier.”


In this report in Handelsblatt, published before the Greek referendum, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann speculates on the consequences for the German budget of the sudden disappearance of large quantities of Greek xenomoney.  I am not an applied mathematician and therefore can’t offer professional advice on where you should put your euros, although I am strongly tempted to make a suggestion.


4 thoughts on “Xenomoney

  1. Jon Awbrey

    There is a deep and pervasive analogy between systems of commerce and systems of communication, turning on their near-universal use of symbola (images, media, proxies, signs, symbols, tokens, etc.) to stand for pragmata (objects, objective values, the things we really care about, or would really care about if we examined our values in practice thoroughly enough).

    Both types of sign-using systems are prey to the same sort of dysfunction or functional disease — it sets in when their users confuse signs with objects so badly that signs become ends instead of means.

    There is a vast literature on this topic, once you think to go looking for it. And it’s a perennial theme in fable and fiction.

    ☞ Recycling a comment on Cathy O’Neil’s blog from 2 years and a day ago …


  2. Pingback: Semiositis • 1 | Inquiry Into Inquiry

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