Monetisation and the Genesis of the Western Subject

In: Historical Materialism
Richard Seaford University of Exeter

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This paper searches early Greek texts (Homer, Herakleitos, Parmenides, Plato) for the genesis of the idea of the individual mind or soul as a unitary site of consciousness, and explores the relation of this genesis to the first monetisation in history. Money simultaneously promotes the isolated autonomy of the individual and provides a model (the unification of diversity by semi-abstract substance) that shapes both the unity of individual consciousness and the presocratic conception of the cosmos as constituted by a single semi-abstract substance. The argument confirms and develops the importance accorded by Alfred Sohn-Rethel to the ‘real abstraction’ of commodity-exchange in the origins of Greek philosophy.

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