Excerpt: Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money

Money has provided us with the sole possibility for uniting people while excluding everything personal and specific.

The disintegrating and isolating effect of money is not only the general precondition and corollary of this conciliatory and unifying quality; under specific historical conditions, money simultaneously exerts both a disintegrating and a unifying effect. For instance, the organic unity and narrowness of family life has on the one hand been destroyed as a consequence of the money economy, while, acknowledging this as a fact, it has been emphasized that the family has become almost nothing more than an organization [374] for inheritance. If, among several interests that determine the cohesion of the group, one of them has a destructive effect upon all the others, then this interest will survive the others and become the only bond between the different elements whose other relationships it has destroyed. It is not only because of its immanent character, but precisely because it destroys so many other kinds of relationships between people, that money establishes relationships between elements that otherwise would have no connection whatsoever. Today there probably exists no association between people that does not include some monetary interest, even if it is only the rent for a hall for a religious association.

The more the unifying bond of social life takes on the character of an association for specific purposes, the more soulless it becomes. The complete heartlessness of money is reflected in our social culture, which is itself determined by money. Perhaps the power of the socialist ideal is partly a reaction to this. For by declaring war upon this monetary system, socialism seeks to abolish the individual’s isolation in relation to the group as embodied in the form of the purposive association, and at the same time it appeals to all the most innermost and enthusiastic sympathies for the group that may lie dormant in the individual. Undoubtedly, socialism is directed towards a rationalization of life, towards control of life’s chance and unique elements by the law-like regularities and calculations of reason. At the same time, socialism has affinities with the hollow communistic instincts that, as the residue of times long since past, still lie in the remote corners of the soul. Socialism’s dual motivations have diametrically opposed psychic roots […]

Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money (Routledge, 2011), pp.374-275. Translated by Tom Bottomore, David Frisby and Kaethe Mengelberg.


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