Alan Watts taught that money is a mere unit of measure, and that a society can no longer go meaningfully broke than it can go out of inches and grams. This undersells the usefulness of money; more importantly, it fails to account for the general issue of human material progress. Watts is no common fool; this is exactly the common mistake of mistaking money for capital on which many social theories — c.f. the so-called “Austrian school of economics” — are founded on. But money relates to capital as the natural numbers relate to the reals: infinite streams of money have a finite value as capital. There’s a fundamental leap in cardinality there.
Shouldn’t we, as axiologists, be interrogating — indeed, wringing its neck for answer — the sentence fragment that says “…has…value”? Usually yes; but there is something about Capital (namely the Laplace transform) that enforces its own axiomatics — axioms, remember, are police officers. Contrast mere analogs like “cultural capital” or “erotic capital”; these are, presumably, monetizable — take the femme fatale of spycraft lore. But the analogy slips; these capital-analogs derive value not from circulation and fungibility, but from alignment with the proverbial gaze of the Other. Erotic capital then circulates through opportunistic seduction, but only through some relational transformation of the capital-analog itself — eroticism is relational, not everyone’s into leggy thin blondes or what’s your type; meanwhile, capital is capital is capital.
Consider something sequenced that has to end promptly. Is it better to know when it’s the very last time so to invest it with sending-off rituals, or is it better to just realize in retrospect when what was lost has long shed any significance? Everything, of course, has to end, and most ending things just give way to something else withing the sequence operation. No one regrets having been weaned from breastfeeding — indeed those who regret not having been breastfed at all must be in a small minority — yet the nursing is all-encompassing for the baby and powerful for the mother, too. Is it better to plan a last feeding, or just to find the kid no longer latches on and he’s fine?
This, of course, has to do with the fact that breastfeeding is a liminal experience, a sweet echo of pregnancy. But it’s also the consolidation/stratification phase of motherhood: in pregancy, mother is not just mother, she’s Universe; past nursing (and maybe weaning is the actual cause of the Mirror Stage), she’s someone else. This is also where psychoanalytical imprecatures may imply particular ethical implications for the Father — a role to play in the Oedipal drama.
In this drama, the father as embodiment of the uppercase-Other (undifferentiated society, at the limit) preserves a space for the mother to remain as a kind of completion of the still-developing infant. This doesn’t mean that fathers must necessarily be stern rather than mushy and spoiling, but that they need to remain the same person while mother, throughout the years, means less and less.
In more generic terms we can try to profit from elsewhere in theory: pregnancy, nursing and motherhood-at-large are all liminal periods, but they’re of three kinds entirely. Pregnancy is ontogenetic, it is radical Becoming from nothing to something near-divine. It’s also a straightforward example of the first articulation (active selection of materials, beginning at the race for the egg itself); this is why nursing, as second articulation, complements it so neatly. But motherhood is something else; childrearing has clear elements of the double articulation (active selection as parents set limits, stratification as kids’ personalities settle), but mother and parent are very different roles (thus the Oedipal drama). Weaning is the point where mother loses her nonparental bond to the child. It’s a huge leap in abstraction.
Propaganda for General Axiology invariably claims: infinite wisdom, infinite wealth. But there’s more than one kind of infinity at play. Real numbers are, after all, a kind of completion of the “number line” until no holes are left. Money can also be read as a completion of capital, but in a different way. Capital assets (a nuclear reactor, the reproduction rights for the film Point Break, cryptocurrency) can be rather stiff — indivisible, illiquid and often even nonfungible. Each of these is liquifiable to some consistent concenpt of valuation and even to some operational extent. But “Marxists” and “neoliberals” get this story exactly backwards: their thinking always assumes silently that because something can be liquified, it can easily congeal again. This is false: the accretion of capital is counter-entropic — between a pile of cash equivalent to the value of Point Break and the actual film there’s… something elspatternpatterne.
Note, then, that “infinite wealth” can never be “infinite money”. Again, try to keep up, infinite money has finite value; infinite value has another cardinality entirely, it consists of a completion of capital by all the other things that make anything of any value at all. And, at any rate, “infinite wealth” clearly falls short of the actual goal of General Axiology. What, money is simply something we nurse off; a primal connection to society from which one is eventually weaned. But note that to wean is not to starve.
The question this discussion attracts is then: is it better to step outside aware that we’re leaving something behind at a specific moment in the sequence? Or is it better to stumble or run through carelessly?