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We posit that prices are signs, not just signals, that work in the same symbolic way as words. Both are complex, generative systems of shared meaning that rely on a web of intricate symbolic references. Just like the meaning of a word is a product of our social and linguistic action, the meaning of a price is a product of our relationship to the physical world phenomena of people in markets. The fundamental conception of both is to communicate and construct worlds with ourselves and others, enabling us to act in the world. Prices, like words, do symbolic work.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Review of Australian Economics in 2022 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

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