Infinite Ends and the Tempo of Life: The Marx/Simmel Convergence

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Thomas KEMPLE, University of British Columbia, Canada
Chapters 1 and 4 of Simmel’s Philosophy of Money on value-in-exchange and individual freedom can be said to complement the analysis of commodity-value in Marx’s Capital, while chapters 2 and 5 on social substance and individual freedom in many ways contradict Marx’s arguments concerning labour-value. Arguably, in chapters 3 and 6 Simmel’s discussion of the transformation of means into ends as the basis for a new style of life converges in key respects with Marx’s examination of the dynamics of objectification, alienation, and reification in the capitalist money economy. This paper elaborates on this convergence with reference to the examples of the miser, the spendthrift, and the fetish character of the commodity as figures of the pace and tempo of modern life in the work of both Marx and Simmel. To the degree that these discussions left a lasting impression in the work of Siegfried Kracauer, Georg Lukács, and Ernst Bloch, some attention will also be given to their implications for post-Marxist critical theory. The paper argues that the conceptual problem of capital conversion, especially the process of valorization and transvaluation through money and machines, provides the common ground between their approaches, and a fruitful source for future analysis.