What insights does Georg Simmel's "The Philosophy of money" (1907) offer to contemporary accounting?

Cary Di Lernia, James Hazelton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Georg Simmel’s The Philosophy of Money (1907) is widely regarded as the seminal work of an important thinker, yet it has not been explored within the accounting literature. This paper introduces Simmel’s key insights and considers their applicability and implications for contemporary accounting debates. In the analytical part of his work, Simmel analyses the development of the money form of value and the psychological foundations required for its use. Simmel demonstrates that the subjectivity of our valuing intentionality is subsumed into objective relationships between things in the process of exchange. This abstraction is reified further through the use of money, a reifying instrument which in effect prevents us from appreciating phenomena in and for themselves. When viewed though the lens provided by the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, it becomes apparent that implicit in Simmel’s account is the idea that the use of money results in particular distortions in the development of our rational capacities which directly impact upon our ability as individuals and societies to actualise our full potential. Accounting is implicated in the perpetuation of this distortion due to its reinforcement of money as the quintessential expression of value in modern societies and economies. Even non-financial accounting remains largely in the service of enterprises concerned with money-making. While Simmel does not provide solutions to the pathologies he identifies, it is tentatively suggested that reducing the scope of commercial markets holds some promise, and initial thoughts regarding how this might be achieved are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the fifth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference
EditorsStewart Lawrence, Markus J. Milne
Place of PublicationAuckland
PublisherAPIRA 2007 Organising Committee
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventAsia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (5th : 2007) - Auckland
Duration: 8 Jul 200710 Jul 2007


ConferenceAsia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (5th : 2007)


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