Hutchinson (1992) The Cattle of Money and the Cattle of Girls among the Nuer, 1930-83
Download this report
Money's uniqueness, Simmel suggests, lies in its ability to extend and diversify human interdependence while excluding everything personal and specific (1978[19001:297-303). Money distances self from other and self from object, generating within the individual dissident feelings of self-sufficiency and alienation, powerlessness and personal freedom (Simmel 1978:307-311): In as much as interests are focus do n money and to the extent that possessions consist of money ,the individual will develop the tendency and feeling of independent importance in relation to the social whole. He will relate to the social whole as one power confronting another since he is free to take up
business relations and co-operation wherever he likes. [Simmel1 978(1900):343]
The "close relationship . .. between a money economy, individualization, and enlargement of the circle of social relationships" enables the individual to buy himself not only out of bonds with specific others but also, Simmel notes, out of those bonds rooted in his possessions
(1978[19001:347, 403ff.). As "the embodiment of the relativity of existence," money drives a wedge between "possessing" and "being": "through money, man is no longer enslaved in things" (Simmel 1978:409, 307, 404). While Simmel welcomes elimination of the personal element of exchange as the gateway to "human freedom" (1978:297-303), he is acutely aware, nonetheless, of the potential instability, disorientation, and despair generated by money's perpetual wrenching of the personal values from things. The development of a money economy, he notes, encourages avarice and other socially detrimental forms of possessive individualism (Simmel 1978:247). Moreover, as money's empty and indifferent character wears away at the "direction-giving significance of things," individuals strive, Simmel observes, to reinvest their possessions with "a new importance, a deeper meaning, a value of their own"....