The Philosophy of Money
Instructor: Rebecca Carson
“There is certainly no side of human life of which one can say that it is merely economic.” Armed with this premise, German social philosopher Georg Simmel (1858-1918) embarks on his arguably greatest work, The Philosophy of Money (1900). What fascinates him is not economics per se—not a single line in the book, he claims, is intended as a statement on economics. Rather, Simmel is intrigued by the “psychological, ethical, aesthetic, historical, sociological, and philosophical dimensions” he sees as inherent in all economic phenomena. Only by considering these dimensions, “subterranean connections” as he calls them, can we stop seeing money as a superficial and abstract economic entity and start revealing how the money economy generates meaning in social and individual lives.
The Philosophy of Money became hugely influential in 20th-century European thought. It is considered to be one of the earliest and most seminal texts in the field of sociology. It introduced the concept of reification as further developed by the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács. It informed cultural critic Walter Benjamin’s approach to the “world of things.” And it inspired authors such as Robert Musil and Rainer Maria Rilke, whose novels The Man Without Qualities and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge both explore Simmel’s take on the subjective effects of modernity. In this course, we will carry out a rigorous reading and discussion of The Philosophy of Money. Our main questions will be: What impact did the book have on 20th-century thought? And how can it help us today in understanding the effect of money on our psychic and social lives?
Maximum enrollment: 10
18 hours (1-3 weeks)
Exact times and dates are determined in consultation with the participants.
5 Rue des Fontaines du Temple