Human values and the market: The case of life insurance and death in 19th-century america

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For Durkheim and Simmel, one of the mostsignificant alterations in the moral values of modern society has been the sacralization of the human being, his emergence as the “holy of holies” (Wallwork 1972, p. 145; Simmel 1900). In his Philosophie des Geldes, Simmel (1900) traces the transition from a belief system that condoned the monetary evaluation of life to the Judeo-Christian conception of the absolute value of man, a conception that sets life above financial considerations. The early utilitarian criterion was rejected in social arrangements, such as slavery, marriage by purchase, and the wergeld or blood money. The rise of individualism was the determining factor in the transition. “The tendency of money to strive after ever-growing indifference and mere quantitative significance coincides with the ever-growing differentiation of men … and thus money becomes less and less adequate to personal values” (Altmann 1903, p. 58).1 For Simmel, money the equalizer became money the profaner. Considered “sub specie pecuniae,” the uniqueness and dignity of human life vanished.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Sociology of Economic Life, Third Edition
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780429962882
ISBN (Print)9780813344553
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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