[...] Finance can only be what it is if it partakes in the state, and the state develops into a value-creating economic agent as it extracts seigniorage from its money production and invites the financial industry to cash in. In fact, according to Vogl, states became sovereign by co-opting finance into their emerging sovereignty and parcelling out part of that sovereignty to the markets, thereby creating a private enclave within public authority endowed with a sovereignty of its own. Just as modern society could not have been monetized without state authority, so the state could only become society’s executive committee by making finance the executive committee of the state.
Money, then, emerges in what Vogl calls ‘zones of indeterminacy’, where private and public interests are reconciled by assigning public status to the former and privatizing the latter. The result is a complex interlocking of conflict and cooperation generative of, and benefiting from, what Vogl calls ‘seigniorial power’—a relationship in which the state and finance undertake to govern one another and, together, society at large. Zones of indeterminacy, Vogl writes, ‘have an ambiguous relation to both sides, they are encouraged and restricted by state authority, they can either boost or inhibit the exercise of political power, and they can stimulate or obstruct (for example through monopolization) market mechanisms’. Financial systems need state regulation to remain responsible and trustworthy, but too much regulation drives money away and thereby undermines the viability of the state. States, in turn, don’t just need robust banking systems for the economy but also credit for themselves, for which they must be in a credible position to promise conscientious repayment, with interest. If they default, they may lose access to financial markets, and their financial industry—and perhaps that of allied countries too—may have to default as well.
It is in crisis situations, when banks are about to collapse or states teeter on the edge of insolvency, that the liberal notion of a clear distinction between markets and the state is exposed as a myth. On such occasions, as financial and political elites join forces in a virtual boardroom, functional differentiation—the pet category of functionalist sociology—loses its meaning and sovereignty reveals a Schmittian face [...]