Skip to main content


Showing posts from July 12, 2009

the place of women II: A digression

In the Philosophy of Money, Georg Simmel speaks of money as the “absolute tool”. Simmel begins with one of those foundation stories with which philosophy is littered - the baby who sees his mother point, the man on the deserted island, the two men handing each other tools and instructions. In this story, the stress falls upon the disparity between what an individual wants of another individual and what he has to trade for it. What this situation is supposed to show us is that, in the encounter of the two individuals, everything is too personal. They are too much themselves, they are persons whose qualities require some intermediary to make them collaborate, to make them less personal one with the other. In this encounter, the peculiarities and situations of both individuals are highly pertinent – they are, so to speak, rooted in their situations. They are, one could say, the prisoners of their own authenticity. Simmel postulates that what is required, here, is some third, some interme

A woman's place

Let’s take up where we left off: with Madame de Stael’s remark that, in our current social arrangements, women are “neither in the order of nature nor in the order of society.” D’Agoult cites de Stael not to refer to Rousseau’s time, but to the new, post revolutionary society. However, since the very staging of that opposition is, in a sense, signed by Rousseau, it is natural to think that Rousseau would have something to say to women and about women. In fact, when d’Agoult writes that Rousseau “spoke” to women, she could well be referring to the introduction of Emile, in which Rousseau literally says that he is speaking to mothers. Less literally, the Nouvelle Heloise was an event in the third life of women all over Europe, and surely the letters of Julie speak to women, in d’Agoult’s sense. Certainly, d’Agoult is onto something when she contrasts Condorcet, with his eagerness to end the system of submission that shackles women in the civil sphere, and Rousseau, for whom it would see