Is Money a Linguistic Form? Integrating Simmel’s Construction of Monetary Value into the Framework of the Philosophy of Language
 
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Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Andrzej Leder   

aleder@ifispan.waw.pl
Publication date: 2018-12-19
 
Polish Sociological Review 2018;204(4):515–526
 
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ABSTRACT
In his study, the author discusses his hypothesis of money as a linguistic form, one understood sensu stricto, as Ferdinand de Saussure would. This approach seems to be the key to explaining some important phenomena: the so-called ‘economics imperialism’ in the social sciences and the specific character of economic language, as seen from the perspective of the humanities. Both the ‘uncanny character’ of economic terms and ‘economics imperialism’ appear in this text as symptoms, or ways in which economic signs, especially money understood as a sign, specifically manifest themselves. The logical analysis of the construction of these signs—analysis based on Saussure’s and Simmel’s propositions—is the main topic of this article. First, the author revisits a well-known parallel between formal structures of linguistic and monetary signs developed in Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics. Second, a crucial difference in these structures is presented and theoretically explained using tools developed by Georg Simmel. The author goes on to consider whether this difference locates the monetary sign outside the realm of language per se. Finally, by applying certain claims made by Ludwig Wittgenstein on the limits of language, the author develops his hypothesis that money is a linguistic sign, but a specific one; it is a kind of a ‘border phenomenon.’ In this text, the author proposes the term ‘linguistic form’ to distinguish this kind of sign. Some theoretical and social consequences of this state of affairs are proposed; inter alia the immanent social antagonism between the symbolic articulation of the social sphere and the economic one.
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