Try this at home, or in your classroom. Ask five individuals the question “What is money?” Write their answers down. Notice anything peculiar? They’ll all be able to tell you what they use it for (i.e. buying things), but they won’t be able to tell you what it is. Not a single one of them will have a good explanation. In fact, after reviewing their  answers you might even suspect that they don’t really know anything at all. This should be shocking to you, if you think about it for a bit. Given the significance of money to all life on Earth, you’d think we’d all be clear about just what it is. But if you try this at home, the truth will be right there in front of you. Nobody, at least at our lowly level in the global hierarchy, really has a clue.

So what, as an educator or parent, are you going to do about this massive and global educational failure? Thankfully,  doing something about it is not hard because, as we see in the video below, money is very easy to understand. As I teach in the video below, and as everybody should be able to understand, money is simply abstracted labour.  As abstracted labour, money gives those who have lots of it godlike power over the world. But, as we see in the video, it’s not all robes and scepters. Money is God to a few, but it may be the end of the world for us all. Money has allowed us to build the technological marvel of modern society, but it has also brought us, via the war, violence, and cascading ecological collapse, to the brink of global destruction, and the possible end of the human experiment. It is not hyperbole. Anyone with eyes can see.

Of course, I think salvation is still possible here. But, we’re gonna have to educate the planet a little first. Start by trying this at home, or in your classroom. Ask the question, “What is money?” To answer the question, show the video below. Then, discuss to your heart’s content. I’m sure you and your friends/family/coworkers/students will find this exercise not only extremely enlightening, but positively transforming as well.

Feel free to post feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this article.


Example Classroom Assignment

Example Assignment

The Book The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy (RSGME)  is a sweeping tutorial on money, the economy, debt, exchange, and a number of other issues (like environmental degradation, inequality, austerity programs, etc.). The Film Money Moksha is a broad overview of the content of the book RSGME. For this assignment you are to pick one topic that is discussed in the book and video and expand on that topic in a short essay. Your short essay should be between 1600 and 2200 words (double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman) and should make use of a combination of Internet resources newspaper articles (as appropriate), and scholarly books and journal articles. If you need help finding scholarly articles on your topic of interest, please contact the Athabasca University library.

Suggested Topics

You can pick any topic you want as long as it is marginally related to content in The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy and the associated film. Make sure you demonstrate that you have read the book and watched the film. If you are having trouble choosing, here are few suggestions.

  • The environment costs of strategies used to increase accumulation (i.e. product differentiation, planned obsolescence, marketing, etc.)
  • The environmental cost of Fast Fashion
  • The human cost of Fast Fashion (Bangladesh workers)
  • Taylorization of the Labour Force (Frederick Winslow Taylor and Scientific Management).
  • World hunger. Progress, directions, its relation to accumulation
  • The stock market as a method for accumulating labour
  • The causes of the French Revolution / The causes of the crises in Syria / The outcome of austerity measures. Debt crises in Greece (or any other country).
  • Canadian debt, Canadian debt trends.
  • The historical emergence of the police.
  • The political function of the police (i.e. maintain regimes of accumulation).
  • Food banks, history, purpose.
  • The health costs of poverty and poor nutrition
  • Perception Sanitation
  • The ideology of the western media
  • Indoctrination (examples, purpose)
  • World debt / World Financial Crises
  • World political crises
  • World economic crises
  • World ecological crises
  • George Orwell’s 1984 book (review, analysis, report)
  • Debt Jubilee. What is it. How it would solve the crises
  • The necessity of better education
  • Consciousness / values / mystical experience
  • The spirituality of scientists
  • The spirituality of revolution
  • Abraham Maslow / Peak Experiences
  • Mystical experience / and political transformation
  • The reenchantment of Science

To complete the essay, you will need to track down a few outside sources. Wikipedia, magazine articles, and web pages are OK but you must supplement those with at least two academic articles. Don’t forget to cite your sources. You can use whatever citation style you like. I use Chicago Style but you can use whatever style you have been trained in (like for example APA). If in doubt, check with you tutor on your topic of choice and confirm with them the resources that you are planning to use.

Essay Rubric

This is an academic essay/paper and you will be assessed using academic standards. This includes:

  • Grammar/punctuation spelling (5%)
  • Sufficient use of academic / external sources (5%)
  • Proper formatting (5%)
  • Proper citation (10%)
  • Content (60%)
  • Logic/clarity of your paper (15%)

Percentage in brackets relay the relative weight of each of the considerations. Obviously, focus the most energy on your content and the logic clarity of your paper, but if you want an “A” you need to pay attention to everything else. A few spelling or grammar errors and failure to cite properly can drop you a full grade quite easily.

Written by Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)

Just another loud mouth sociology professor, teaching sociology courses. Check me out here at the Socjourn, over there at The Conversation and at

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