Im Takt des Geldes - Über die Genese des modernen Denkens
by Eske Bockelmann
This is a recension of the book "Im Takt des Geldes - Über die Genese des modernen Denkens" by Eske Bockelmann. StefanMerten read the book. The book is in German.
One of my main personal interests is in a major societal change and how it could come about. This leads to two big questions:
What in the current society is a historical phenomenon related to this type of society?
The answer to this question shows me what can be changed and what not.
This question fuels my interest in cultures different from the one I know but also in historical cultures and societies.
What brought about a major societal change in history so far?
The answer to this question helps me to look for phenomenons today which have the potential to do this today.
This question fuels my interest in the historical switch from feudalism to capitalism.
The book "Im Takt des Geldes - Über die Genese des modernen Denkens" gives extremely interesting answers to both questions. Its main topic is the exploration of the historical shift from pre-capitalist thinking to capitalist thinking. During the course of the book Bockelmann explains very nicely a major shift in thinking around 1620 in Western Europe. According to him this shift has never been understood before. If this is true Bockelmann IMHO belongs to the most important thinkers of all times.
My first question is answered by Bockelmann very fundamentally by explaining that compared to previous forms modern thinking has a new major aspect. This aspect he calls functional abstraction (funktionale Abstraktion). Before this there has been material abstraction but material abstraction never dissociated from matter.
But not only is there this new aspect of a completely new form of thinking. Even more astonishing is that this major shift happened completely unconsciously.
So today knowing of this functional abstraction I am able to kind of "subtract" it from what I see day by day. Now I know that there were an era before functional abstraction and functional abstraction was not an option to use. Indeed many, many things in our daily life exist only due to this functional abstraction - and thus are historical - and thus in general can be changed.
My second question is also answered by the concept of the functional abstraction which came into being exactly with capitalism. However, this is two-fold. On the one hand Bockelmann explains very well how this functional abstraction came about with the advent of a society based on money - i.e. capitalism. He explains that the concept of money in capitalism is based on this functional abstraction and that by money becoming commonplace this type of thinking becomes commonplace, too.
On the other hand functional abstraction was the basis for many capitalist developments we seen during the past 400 years. One of the most prominent ones is the creation of sciences of nature which not only did not exist before but were not thinkable.
With about 450 pages the book is pretty long. However, it is fun to read the whole book. The language is fine to read and Bockelmann is able to explain very complicated and abstract things very well.
The story of the book follows more or less Bockelmann's way through the topic. Once in a while the style becomes pretty personal - for instance when he asks the reader to follow him to the next thought. I like this.
Nonetheless Bockelmann is as analytical and serious as one can imagine. He doesn't miss a single detail and uses the book to go to every little root which could possibly be explored. More than once he tells about the puzzlement his insights cause in readers. He replies to this by explaining every detail.
It is also noteworthy that very often Bockelmann cites other authors. Often these authors are from the time he writes about - for instance Descartes or Bacon. Using there work he shows very nicely how the new form of thinking appeared.
I'm just beginning to digest the enormous insights this book gave me. I guess it will influence my future thinking about our current society and a possible future society a lot.
One idea, however, I had already. Bockelmann explained very nicely the nature of functional abstraction. What is interesting to me is that until recently the functional abstraction has been a domain of the human brain. Computers, however, are the ultimate machines based on functional abstraction. If I'm right software can be seen as pure functional abstraction. So far functional abstraction has been useful to build machinery. With computers the functional abstraction itself is mechanized. For me this is a nice explanation of why the elder among us find computers such fascinating things.