This article is a history of liquidity presented as interaction between metaphors and theoretical concepts in social contexts. While taking note of Zygmunt Bauman’s metaphor “liquid modernity,” the study instead surveys the wider conceptual field. The text turns around mercantile liquidity (liquidity as clarification) and liquidity in modern economics (characteristic of all assets), as well as older metaphors, notably the famous phrase of the Communist Manifesto, “all that is solid melts into air” (Alles Ständische und Stehende verdampft), which is revealed to have resonance in texts by poets, notably Heinrich Heine. The main result is the historical consistency of the field, where liquidity is a promise of knowledge and clarity.
Keynes and Marx, Merchants, and Poets
This article explores the extent to which gold jewelry, an object type conventionally looked on as a means of display, should also be seen as a type of money. Drawing on historical evidence and ethnographic research, the analysis considers the ways in which two examples—the Renaissance money chain and the modern jewelry collection— exhibit characteristics fundamental to money: liquidity, partibility, and recursive divisibility. As a result, this study proposes that gold jewelry can best be described as a type of para-money. The article concludes that due to its ambiguous state, gold jewelry is able to act as a mediator in social situations where exchanges of money proper are considered unacceptable, and that this is an important yet underacknowledged aspect of its social identity.
“Liquid modernity” is a concept that Zygmunt Bauman suggested to
describe a certain condition in advanced modern societies where changeability,
unpredictability, and unreliability have become core features
determining individual life and social interaction.1 Diminishing party loyalty
and increasing voter volatility, erratic but often vociferous articulation
of political preferences and participation, and a marked shift towards populism
all belong to the political fallout from Bauman’s condition of liquidity.
With his notion of the “fluid five-party system,” Oskar Niedermayer has
further developed the metaphor.2 On the one hand, his concept attempts
to capture the new structural characteristics of the German party system,
i.e., its fragmentation and structural asymmetry. On the other hand, it
seeks to capture the changed relationship between the individual parties,
specifically their mutual demarcation and rapprochement in the context of
coalition strategies. Indeed, having to compete in a five-party system and
trying to optimize their strategic position in a context of high unpredictability
is the major new challenge Germany’s political parties are having