Money's Mutation of the Modern Moral Mind: The Simmel Hypothesis and the Cultural Evolution of WEIRDness

21 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2021 Last revised: 5 Aug 2021

Date Written: August 4, 2021

Abstract

A great number of theories have been offered as to the root of the difference between the modern mind and the premodern mind. One neglected account comes from Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money, which argues that the rise of the mass money economy in the early modern era encouraged calculative modes of thought, and took over the coordinating functions of a number of previously important institutions such as kin and religious networks, thus “freeing” the latter to evolve without strong material feedback. This paper considers monetary exchange and kin/religious networks as alternative strategies for coordinating the division of labor, and shows how the widespread availability of the former can alter the cultural-evolutionary constraints on the latter. This dynamic explains a number of salient differences between modern and premodern moral life such as money’s profaning character, as well as the sociological significance of modern moral phenomena like individualism, rationalism, and fundamentalism.

Keywords: Economic Sociology, Comparative Psychology, Cultural evolution, Institutions, Cooperation, Economic History

JEL Classification: Z13, N10, B52

Suggested Citation

Harwick, Cameron, Money's Mutation of the Modern Moral Mind: The Simmel Hypothesis and the Cultural Evolution of WEIRDness (August 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3819027 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3819027

Cameron Harwick (Contact Author)

SUNY College at Brockport ( email )

Brockport, NY 14420
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cameronharwick.com

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