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Bill Maurer

Credit. From the Latin, credere, to trust or to believe. Crisis, from the Greek κρίσις, crisis, but also decision, judgment. Judgment day. I had imagined this article as a series of epistles, short missives with didactic aphorisms—postcards, really—from the credit crisis. Yet the effort foundered on two shores. First, my abilities are simply not up to the task, for this genre with its ancient history boasts so many predecessors and models that selection for the purposes of mimicry—or embodiment—became impossible. Second, and more important, I began to realize, in the effort, that the genre demands an analytical engagement with its material that this article in many respects stands athwart. How it does so will become apparent in due course. The credit crisis began in 2008 and continues to the time of my writing, in May 2010. In naming the credit crisis and its religion, I acknowledge I afford them a degree of reality they may not possess. I also acknowledge that this article comes with temporal limits, the limits of the time of its writing. My debts are many and cannot be fully acknowledged. Reality, time and debt are very much at issue in credit crisis religion. Worldly constraints narrow my inquiry to Anglophone and primarily United States examples. Christianity is, by necessity and design, over-represented.

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Payment

Forms and Functions of Value Transfer in Contemporary Society

Bill Maurer

Renewed anthropological attention to money and finance is welcome. However, recent attention to the ghosts in the financial machine neglects the infrastructures of payment that make finance possible. Following professionals and policymakers into the clearance and settlement of payments - the means of value transfer - affords insight into an industry hotly contested by new entrants and by a few critics who find in its business model a defiance of market logic. The tolls and fees of private payment infrastructures pose challenges to critical analyses of capitalism as well as to the public interest in payment, even as they are essential to the forms and functions of value transfer. Everyday exchanges are tolled, large-scale transfers are not: the article suggests that payment is a pressing political concern, as well as an analytical one.