Spinoza, money, and desire

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In the context of Spinoza's psychological and political theory, money appears as a profound social problem. I agree with Frédéric Lordon and André Orléan that Spinoza's psychological theory can explain how multiple agents can converge on a single monetary good as a means of payment. I disagree, however, with their further claim that this convergence brings an end to rivalrous conflict among those agents. Instead, I argue, it intensifies and concentrates this rivalry, threatening the very bonds that hold society together. Yet money is, on Spinoza's account, necessary for commerce, and commerce is necessary for humans to live together. The social problem that thus arises is that of ensuring that money can play its vital role in supporting commerce without giving way to destructive rivalries that can destroy society. My interpretation of Spinoza on these points is influenced by the theory of René Girard, with which Spinoza's account has some striking parallels.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
VolumeEarly View
Early online date26 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2018


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