The Making of Abstraction. Some Hypotheses on Money, Language, and Modern Literature


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theory of value
real abstraction
philosophy of language
commodity fetishism
literary theory
social psychology
political philosophy

How to Cite

Gerace, R. (2022). The Making of Abstraction. Some Hypotheses on Money, Language, and Modern Literature. Revista Guillermo De Ockham, 20(2). (Original work published July 29, 2022)


The question I have tried to answer is whether there is such a thing as linguistic alienation and what its consequences are for Marxist literary studies and for understanding the so-called "superstructure" in general. Relevant assumptions on this subject were elaborated, above all, in the sixties and seventies by Lefebvre, Rossi-Landi, Baudrillard and Latouche, through the tabulation of a parallelism between Marx's theory of value and Saussure's theory of sign. In my opinion, all these hypotheses failed to understand the specificity of the Marxist interpretation of money, which is a very different form of semiotics, because (as Finelli and Arthur, among others, have shown) it owes much to Hegelian logic.

Therefore, I try to demonstrate that, putting certain categories of semiotics and philosophy of language to interpret the critique of Marx's political economy, money is not a sign but a code: paraphrasing Lacan, it could be said that capital is configured like a language. It is not, however, a neutral language, but a linguistic praxis capable of hiding a material situation through abstractions. If this is correct, we do not need to ask how a matter (the structure) acts on a series of semantic and ideological chains (the superstructure), but to what extent capital itself, considered as a text, functions as a formal model (using Marx's words: a formelle bestimmung) for the organization of all matter in which its domain of abstraction extends. The "structural causality" on which Jameson relies in The Political Unconscious is thus the result of the dialectical link between mechanical and expressive causalities.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Roberto Gerace


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