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Bart Stellinga

Entry requirements 

For 2nd or 3rd year honours students only. 

Recommended prior knowledge


Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • Describe different theoretical perspectives on the ‘nature of money’ and what it is that ‘makes money work’.
  • Explain how and why money is created, and how different factors (societal, political, legal, and economical) influence this process.
  • Critically examine arguments about the positive and negative aspects of our current monetary system.
  • Critically discuss various proposals for monetary reform and develop policy recommendations based on this analysis.


What exactly is money? Why does it ‘work’? And how is it created? Before the financial crisis of 2007-9 many scholars and analysts treated these questions as technical, economic issues that matter little for the functioning of our societies. The crisis has renewed interest in these topics, with scholars debating the economic, political, social and legal underpinnings of countries’ monetary systems. And as the current corona-crisis has led to massive and controversial financial interventions by governments and central banks, this debate will not go away any time soon.    

One particularly controversial topic is the role of commercial banks in our monetary system. It is quite common to think that the central bank creates money, and that banks merely play an ‘intermediating’ role. In reality, commercial banks create most of our money. They do so in the process of making loans to business and households. This, among other things, makes banks central players in the economy and society.

As the financial crisis of 2007-9 required massive public support to ensure the survival of our banking system, a debate has ensued whether banks’ central role needs reconsideration. Proponents of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, claim that these could become viable alternatives to ‘bank money’. Several central banks are debating whether they should issue a ‘digital currency’. Some cities even issue their own coins. In several countries citizens initiatives plead for stripping banks of their role as ‘money creators’, arguing that ‘making money’ should only be done by the central bank. In short: the monetary system is being questioned.

This course is about money, banks’ role in money creation, and whether we need to organize things differently. While money and banking are commonly seen as ‘economic issues’, we will address them from a variety of angles, using insights from economics, political science, sociology, history, law, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology. We will discuss the political, legal, social, and economic institutions that underpin our current monetary system. Drawing on these insights, we will assess various alternatives, such as cryptocurrencies, a ‘public money system’, and structural reforms in banking sectors.

The course will address the following questions:

  • What is money?
  • What makes money work?
  • How and why do banks create money – and what are the constraints?
  • How did we get here?
  • What are the problems with our current monetary system?
  • What is the link between the financial crisis of 2007-9 and money creation?
  • What alternatives to our current system are debated?
  • What other reforms are possible?

Class contents

  • Seminars
  • Lectures + guest lectures
  • Presentation/Symposium
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project / thesis
  • Guidance/Feedback moment


  • Preparation, attendance and active participation in seminars
  • The completion of a group assignment in which you make different perspectives on money accessible to a non-academic audience
  • A final assignment in which you critically examine solutions to particular problems in our monetary-financial system. 

Min/max participants

  • max.25
  • 40% of the places is reserved for non-economy/business students


The schedule will be available on Datanose .

Study material

Academic articles, book chapters, and other relevant study material will be made available through Canvas at the beginning of the module.


Registration is possible for 2nd year (or higher) students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on June 4, 10 am -  June 8, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS.

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is no guarantee for placement if you register after June 8, so make sure you apply on time! 

For questions: please contact 

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in the educational offer and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDG's website.

Facts & Figures
Honours programme
Language of instruction
Conditions for admission
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