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Face Value: The Entwined Histories of Money and Race in America by [Michael O'Malley]

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Face Value: The Entwined Histories of Money and Race in America Illustrated Edition, Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"Michael O’Malley’s witty, insightful Face Value traces the American quest for a stable source of value in a society that prized freedom.Through deft analysis of a wide range of sources, O'Malley shows that arguments over money and arguments over race have had much in common, and indeed, have often intersected in the United States in surprising and disturbing ways—even now. Most important is O’Malley’s contention that the monetary chaos of the nineteenth century, which has bewildered so many students of American history, turned whiteness into a crucial sign of individual worth."

-- Adam Rothman, Georgetown University

“This is a ‘big idea’ book that no one but Michael O’Malley could even have thought of—much less pulled off with such nuance and clarity. From the wampum that sustained the Pilgrims to the gold fever that accompanied the Obama presidency, this swift-moving, plain-talking book explains how ‘the money question’ and ‘the race question’ are really two sides of the same coin. Grounded in smartly told stories about fascinating historical characters, and written in a conversational style that is wry but never cynical,
Face Value is worth its weight in ideas.” -- Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America

 “O’Malley’s new book is a magnificent piece of scholarship on a topic that is at once timely and surprising. O’Malley shows our twin national obsessions—money and race—dancing together across economic policy reports, the pages of literary fiction, the stage, the screen, and the airwaves. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.” -- Benjamin Reiss, Emory University

Face Value is a provocative, imaginative, and gracefully written work of cultural history, one that unearths hitherto unimagined connections between markets, money, and race. In the process, Michael O’Malley manages to show how currency, which historians and economists too often treat as timeless and neutral, has for centuries been entangled with the institution and legacy of American slavery.”

-- Stephen Mihm, University of Georgia

Face Value extends a powerful tradition of resisting the reduction of economic life to material interest. Stripped of the initial article’s telling invocation of Foucault’s The Order of Things, O’Malley’s long-awaited monograph aspires to do more than explore resemblances between historical discourses.” ― Journal of Social History --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From the Author

We tend to use money without thinking about it. We might think about whether or not we have enough money, but we rarely consider what money actually is. Face Value looks at the ways Americans tried to make sense of money. It pays special attention to the history of arguments about the gold standard. The book starts in the era of the American Revolution and ends in first decade of the 21st century.The history of American money is much more interesting, and more complicated, than we generally know. In the 1850s, for example, there were more than 9000 kinds of bank notes in circulation. In that same era, small and large businesses and even individuals could also print their own money. Throughout US history, a desire for stable, "real" value contrasted with a desire for expansive, negotiable value. Face Value is especially concerned with the way arguments about money tended to mirror arguments about race: the relationship between specie and species. Slaves backed the paper money of the south: Americans literally banked on slavery. During the Civil War, Lincoln's opponents compared greenback paper dollars to negro soldiers, seeing both as inflated and valueless. In the 1890s, enemies of immigration regarded Italians and Slavs as "low wage races" who used silver as money, unlike the Anglo Saxons who favored gold. The book explains how the money system worked in different periods, including the establishment of the federal reserve. It also explores the psychology of money, examining in one case how Franklin Roosevelt established the Fort Knox gold vault primarily as a public relations move, to give the impression of certainty and security. It ends with the election of Barack Obama and the return of calls for the gold standard.It's not meant as a strictly popular book, but it's not jargon-laden, and it offers a both broad survey of the history of money and some new approaches to understanding it.  --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0081948HS
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ The University of Chicago Press; Illustrated edition (May 14, 2012)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 14, 2012
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 5732 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

About the author

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A native of Philadelphia, Mike O'Malley got his undergraduate degree in history at Temple University, and his PH.D. in US history at the University of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley he was a student of Lawrence Levine and Michael Rogin. He taught at NYU and at Vassar College before coming to George Mason University in 1994. His first book, Keeping Watch, was published by Viking/ Penguin in 1990.

O'Malley was a semi professional musician and before Covid be seen playing in various small-time local gigs around the DC area.

He dreads the Midas touch of expertise

Customer reviews

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