Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Joshua . Farley


Money is the most ubiquitous institution on the planet. It gave rise to literacy, mathematics, sedentary community, and the concept of universal value. Against this backdrop, however, hardly anyone understands what money is. Orthodox monetary theory conceives of money as a neutral commodity that facilitates barter. Presupposing this theory is a dualistic and atomistic ontology in which reality is organized into hierarchically ordered opposites of superiority and inferiority and complex interactions are reduced to summations of their attendant parts. Accordingly, monetary policy is enacted as though money were any other commodity, subject to the barter dynamics of supply and demand. In this manner, the vast majority of money in modern economies is created by commercial banks in pursuit of profit maximization.

An interdisciplinary literature conceives of money as a social relation of credits and debts denominated in a unit of account. Such an approach complicates and undermines the assumptions of economic theory and allows for a more effective approach to the problems attendant to modern money. This dissertation draws upon this literature to develop an Ecological Monetary Theory (EMT) that is simultaneously rooted in a social understanding of money, and an ontology of embeddedness.

The first chapter draws upon ecofeminist theory to explore the ontological presuppositions of neoclassical economic theory and the monetary theory it informs. It argues that the dualism and atomism central to Western philosophy manifest as the misleading conceptualization that money is a commodity that facilitates barter. It then explores an interdisciplinary literature to argue that barter has never existed as an economic mode and money’s nature lies rather in the unit of account. It then argues that ecological economics must develop a theory of money of its own in order to avoid importing the dualistic ontology at the heart of orthodox monetary theory.

The second chapter develops an ecological monetary theory. It does this by using an interdisciplinary literature to answer three closely-related questions: What is money? How does money get its value? How does money get into society? It then develops an ontology of embededdness by exploring the ontological presuppositions of ecological economics and ecofeminism. Then it develops a two-tiered theory in which money’s abstract social nature is mediated against its tangible biophysical claim through this ontology of embeddedness in order to address the contradiction at the heart of both social and material conceptions of money.

The third chapter uses ecological monetary theory to test the desirability of a public banking proposal. In such a proposal, the prerogative of money creation is taken from the commercial banking sector and given solely to the State. This returns seigniorage to the public and allows the government to create money for social and ecological purpose, destroying money through taxation in order to maintain the money’s value. This chapter determines that, given certain parameters, public banking is a desirable alternative to the current monetary system.



Number of Pages

181 p.