The Culture of Abstraction

Toscano, Alberto. 2008. The Culture of Abstraction. Theory, Culture & Society, 25(4), pp. 57-75. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Focusing especially on Science and the Modern World, this article explores Whitehead's understanding of the social contexts and repercussions of mathematical and scientific abstraction. It investigates his remarks on the need to offset pernicious practices of abstraction in the context of a renewed concern with the link between conceptuality and materiality in social theory. Whitehead's inquiry into the problematic legacy of Galileo and scientific materialism is then contrasted with a different diagnosis of the abstractive maladies of modern society, the one put forward under the Marxist rubric of `real abstraction'. While both stances allow us to explore the social repercussions of abstractive practices, it is argued that an understanding of the practically abstract character of capitalism permits us to identify the limits of Whitehead's pedagogical wish to reform our culture of abstraction.

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abstraction, capitalism, commodity, culture, exchange, Marx, mathematics, Sohn-Rethel, Whitehead, Žižek

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1 July 2008Published

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28 May 2009 11:19

Last Modified:

04 May 2021 11:13

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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