Simmel and Lukacs

I came across the following passage in one of the texts to be discussed in today’s seminar. It supports Colletti,Elbe and others argument that much of Lukacs’ theory of reification is influenced by Simmel, particularly his opposition between quantity and quality, his antipathy to objectivity and the contemplative attitude these conditions cultivate:

In one of the best-known sociological discussions of price—The Philosophy of Money ([1907] 1990) by Georg Simmel—the role of money in privileging the quantitative as a mode of abstraction, evaluation and constraint is understood in cultural terms. For Simmel, money is the representative of ‘a cognitive tendency in modern science as a whole: the reduction of qualitative determinations to quantitative ones’ (ibid.: 277). In short, money is responsible for the privileging of the category of quantity over that of quality. The quantitative tendency exemplified by money contributes, so Simmel argues, to the acceptance of relativity, in which more and more things are not simply put in relation to one other, but are rendered equivalent in value or made unconditionally interchangeable. Money underpins

the tendency to dissolve quality into quantity, to remove the elements more and more from quality, to grant them only specific forms of motion and interpret everything that is specifically, individually and qualitatively determined as the more or less, the bigger or smaller, the wider or narrower, the more or less frequent. (Simmel 278)

This is what Simmel calls the ‘merciless objectivity’ (ibid.: 431) of money: ‘money takes the place of the manifoldness of things and expresses all qualitative distinctions between them in the distinction of “how much”’ (ibid.: 127). It provides the conditions for the growth of calculative functions and the emergence of a blasé attitude in people—that is, an indifference towards the distinctions between objects (and subjects). (Celia Lury Brands: The Logos of Global economy)

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About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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