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Hans DG Hyun

Hans DG Hyun

Tokyo, Japan

An independent researchere in economics with academic articles published in international journals with over 30 years experience in banking and finance at major global investment banks.

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About the author

• an independent researcher in economic theories especially Post Keynesian Economics and Economic Socilogy.
• with over 30 year experience in investment banking, mostly for financing large infra/energy projects globally, at major US/European investment banks
• Recent publicaitons include: A financial frontier model with bankers' susceptibility under uncertainty (2023), Metroeconomica (Wiley), with numerous translation of Post Keynesian economic theories in to Asian languages (John Maynard Keynes by Mark Hayes, Advanced Introduction to Post Keynesian Economics by John E. King and Das Gesetz der Macht by Friedrich von Wieser into Japanese and Korean).
• Studied economics at the London School of Economics and University of Cambridge with post graduate degrees.
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Sacred Money

A Historical Investigation into the Sacred Origin of Money

Sacred Money: The long-awaited first English translation of Bernhard Laum's acclaimed 1924 masterpiece, originally written in German and endorsed by Keynes and Paul Einzig. This captivating book uncovers the origins of money in ancient rituals and the sacred legal order. A strikingly original 'archaeological detective novel' that unveils the grand illusion of money and modernity, challenging neoliberal ideology on money.

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Sacred Money is a timeless masterpiece in the realm of monetary theory, originally penned in 1924 by Bernhard Laum, a multifaceted German archaeologist, anthropologist, historian, and economist. Throughout its history, it has garnered both fervent acclaim and vigorous criticism from scholars, leading to cyclical waves of interest over the past century since its initial release. Unfortunately, the book has suffered from the proliferation of one-sided interpretations in recent years, exacerbated by the absence of an English edition. However, this forthcoming English edition aims to rectify this issue and provide a comprehensive understanding of Laum's work.

This captivating book delves into a remarkable and thought-provoking subject, tracing the origins of money back to the sacred rituals of antiquity. It directly challenges the prevailing "catallactic theory of money," which asserts that money originated solely from secular exchanges. This latter theory, embraced by neoliberal thinkers, relies on an ahistorical "conjectural history" premised on a state of nature where the exchange of goods among free and equal individuals akin to modern humans already existed, albeit without the use of money. Despite its anachronistic nature and lack of historical evidence, the catallactic theory remains the dominant viewpoint espoused in most contemporary economics textbooks. This persistence is due in part to its adherence to the axiom of homo economicus and its alignment with the ideology that market economies thrive on monetary freedom.

Conversely, Laum's alternative perspective argues that money emerged from the sacred realm, rather than secular transactions.

Laum's work was profoundly influenced by Georg Friedrich Knapp (1842-1926), the pioneer of the "state theory of money" and "chartalism," a nominalist understanding of money. Knapp's ideas left a lasting impact on renowned figures such as John Maynard Keynes, neo-chartalists, and Post Keynesians, including proponents of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). In essence, while Knapp attributed the origins of money to the legal order and proclamations of the state, Laum delved even deeper into history, asserting that its roots lie within the sacred realm governed by ancient rituals or 'sacred' legal order. By doing so, he demonstrates that money represents a fundamental institution of social life that transcends mere economic considerations. To grasp its origins fully, one must explore the broader context of social life in antiquity.

Laum vehemently opposed methodological individualism, which isolates individuals, overlooks the intricate "conflicts in space and time," and neglects the embeddedness of human beings within their cultural and societal contexts. In this regard, he shares a similar ethos with great thinkers such as Max Weber and Karl Polanyi. Grounded in this perspective, Laum criticized modern liberalism, which undermines the social fabric, and he instead advocated for a more cohesive "human community."

This book takes readers on a thrilling and enlightening journey, tracing the evolution of money from the ancient Egyptian and Homeric periods to the height of the Roman Empire. Its structure resembles that of an "archaeological detective novel" (von Braun, 2022), as Laum systematically unravels layer after layer, gradually revealing a comprehensive chain of events. Ultimately, he exposes the "grand illusion of modernity"—the profound secret behind the money illusion upon which the modern economy is built. Sacred Money will undoubtedly satiate readers' intellectual curiosity while inspiring open-minded and generous researchers in their respective fields of inquiry.

This book stands as one of the esteemed classics in the realm of monetary theory. Its significance is frequently acknowledged in academic circles, albeit indirectly quoted, owing to the absence of an English translation over the past century.

Despite the book's importance, no endeavor has been made, or rather, no one has dared to venture, into translating it into English for the past hundred years. This can primarily be attributed to the book's profoundly interdisciplinary nature. Its contents pose significant challenges for translation by social scientists or economists due to the utilization of ancient Greek, Latin, and Medieval German. Likewise, archaeologists or classicists find it difficult to grasp the book's essential messages without a profound understanding of the economic thoughts of the German Historical School, the early 20th-century Austrian School, Max Weber, GF Knapp, and modern neo-Chartists, among others. Although the book delves into archaeological facts and employs Homer as its "raw materials," comprehending it requires a breadth of knowledge beyond the scope of archeological disciplines.

Furthermore, the absence of an English edition can also be attributed to the book's highly demanding writing style. Direct quotations in Greek or Latin without translations, excessive use of abbreviations, and unclear citation sources, stemming from the author's haste during the publication in 1924, have deterred potential translators.

Consequently, the current translator has invested immense efforts into ensuring the accessibility of this English translation for modern readers. All the ancient Greek, Latin, and medieval German phrases that remained untranslated in the original edition have been meticulously rendered into English. This endeavor was undertaken with the invaluable assistance of Emeritus Professor Richard Seaford from the University of Exeter, UK, a distinguished scholar in the ancient economic sociology. Additionally, numerous images, merely referenced in the original text, have been included in images to enrich the reading experience. Finally, an extensive index has been compiled, collating German, English, Greek, and Latin terms for the convenience of readers. Many scholars eagerly await this English translation as Laum's work resurfaces with renewed relevance.

Sales arguments

  • With the rising interest in the phenomenon of money among the general public, fueled by the popularity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), this book has the potential to captivate diverse audiences, including both academics and intellectual readers.
  • This book is a crucial resource for courses in economic history and economic sociology at universities, making it an essential reading for students in these fields. Most libraries currently hold the 1924 German edition, which unfortunately lacks reader-friendliness due to untranslated ancient Greek and Latin vocabularies. Therefore, it is imperative that this revised English translation be included in the collections of most libraries.
  • Esteemed economist Michael Hudson, a prominent figure in the progressive movement, has expressed his intention to cite this book in his upcoming publication, further solidifying its relevance and influence.
  • Therefore, forging a partnership with a publisher who possesses connections to major US libraries and bookstores is crucial to ensure widespread distribution and accessibility of the book.

Similar titles

  • Paul Einzig (1966), 'Primitive Money,' Pergamon Press: A famous classic. Appraised “Sacred Money” and dedicated a chapter for it.
  • Richard Seaford (2004), 'Money and the Early Greek Mind: Homer, Philosophy, Tragedy,' Cambridge University Press : appraised “Sacred Money” and make it as a key theme of the book.
  • Mark Peacock (2013), 'Introducing Money,' Routledge: appraised “Sacred Money” and dedicated three chapters for it.


(1) Libraries in the USA: The book aims to reach most university libraries in the USA, as they mostly possess the 1924 German edition. However, it is crucial to highlight that this edition lacks reader-friendliness and fails to cater to the needs of modern readers due to the incorporation of ancient Greek, Latin, and medieval German. This English translation addresses these issues, making it more accessible and relevant. (2) researchers and students in various disciplines: The book appeals to individuals engaged in economic theories, economic sociology, sociology, architectural studies, anthropology, economic history, and sociology, among others. Its interdisciplinary nature makes it a valuable resource for a wide range of academic fields. (3) General readers: The book offers an engaging narrative, akin to a detective novel, leading readers to thought-provoking conclusions. Its accessibility to general readers ensures its appeal to a broader audience beyond academia. (4) Essential supplementary reading at universities: The book is an ideal addition to the list of supplementary readings for university courses, particularly in disciplines such as economic sociology, economic anthropology, history of economic thought, economic history, sociology, and related subjects, catering to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Advance praise

Renowned economists John Maynard Keynes and Paul Einzig have made notable references to this book in their works, attesting to its significance in the field. 

Moreover, prominent scholars Mark Peacock (Introducing Money, 2013, Routledge) and Richard Seaford (Money and the Early Greek Mind: Homer, Philosophy, Tragedy, 2004, Cambridge University Press) have dedicated substantial portions of their own books to the study and exploration of this book's concepts. 

Numerous articles have also been published discussing its themes and contributions.

Furthermore, the book garnered attention at a symposium held in Italy approximately a decade ago, further highlighting its relevance and impact. 

A German publisher, Matthes & Seitz Verlag, recognized its significance and reprinted the book in March 2022, following the original publication in 1924 and a second reprint in 2006. 

The translator's introduction provides a comprehensive overview of the book's historical reception, further contextualizing its importance in the scholarly discourse.

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