John Searle has proposed one of the most influential contemporary accounts of social ontology.
According to Searle, institutional facts are created by the collective assignment of a specific kind
of function —status-function— to pre-existing objects. Thus, a piece of paper counts as money
in a certain context because people collectively recognize it as money, and impose a status upon
it, which in turn enables that piece of paper to deliver certain functions (means of payment, etc.).
The first part of this essay presents Searle’s theory of social ontology and summarizes his views on
money. The second part centers on criticisms of his views and compares his theory with its main
competitors, including the theories of Tuomela, Guala and Hindriks, and Smit, Buekens and
Duplessis. The conclusion attempts to see what may remain of Searle’s theory after careful