A very interesting work-in-progress from the Charnel House, arguing for the metropolis as the ‘locus classicus’ of monetary abstraction. Hard to argue with that, but for me it begs further questions about money and location. Whilst the capitalist city and capitalist money were certainly coeval, money in a variety of forms long predates the city. As Lefebvre notes (cited in the piece) protomodern European market towns were built in advance of the development of the money economy, but in its image. Is a particular form of money, therefore, the ‘locus classicus’ for the city? And what has happened to the spatiality of money more recently? Whilst the is still, obviously, a very strong connection between money and urban space (the City is still the City, after all), the location of money now that it seems to have become almost wholly abstracted (electronic bits circulating at near light speed) is a moot point. I totally buy the history of monetary abstraction and the metropolis, but it am not sure that in the longer run money actually needs the city. If it’s protean nature created the city, then the same feature of money can just as easily dispense with it.
Either way, a fascinating and thought-provoking essay and I look forward to seeing the finished version.
What follows is an extract, some preliminary research, from an essay I’m working on with Sammy Medina. It’s in very rough form, and over-footnoted. Much of it will have to be cut. But I still felt like I had to go through everything step by step to make sure that each stage of the argument holds up. Once that’s done I’m hoping I’ll find shortcuts for how to say it with greater brevity.
The modern metropolis, both in its historical origins and present-day existence, is the site of capitalist accumulation par excellence. As the German sociologist Georg Simmel put it in his celebrated 1903 essay, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” “[t]he metropolis has always been the seat of the money economy.” Money played a vital role, after all, in shifting the political center of gravity away from the countryside toward the city. Despite the numerous titles and…
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