Wednesday, April 11, 2018
"I'm giving you money, I want you to look at me."

"Here was Seattle playing itself marvelously, and I had to see the conclusion. Would the miserable woman tilt her head back and recognize the youngish and dashing man offering her money? Would the beggar pay his Hegelian price? In Hegel's conception of the master and slave dialectic (or struggle), the master demands recognition from the slave, but he does not reciprocate this recognition; the slave goes unseen or is seen only by those who are unseen by their masters. For Hegel, this conception is nothing less than the motor of history, the engine of revolutions that will realize the total mind of history.

If the beggar on the sidewalk did not give the man her eyes, would he still give her the bill? Or would he put it back in his wallet and leave? The players of this sad drama had no idea that only one person was in the audience.

The woman's face rose from beneath her head of hair and gave him open eyes. But they came with no expression, no emotion—nothing on her cracked lips, nothing in the eyebrows, and even nothing in the eyes. She only saw him. Once satisfied with the fullness and length of the recognition (the payment), he put the bill in the cup, rose, and went on his way.

I went on my way as well. But the incident did not leave me. It got me thinking about money, about how it is impersonal, or has the appearance of an indifferent medium of exchange. As critical theorists like Werner Bonefeld insist, money is a cultural thing (meaning, it's socially constituted) that dissolves into the natural world: water, air, vegetables, and all other things we need for our survival. We can call this the abstract necessity—money is at once an objective abstraction, but has the power to prevent people from eating. But we still want the thing that money hides, that is also its actual basis—social relations—to appear in our everyday doings."

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