Elvira Scheich | What makes the world go round? Gendered Theories on money and moving forces in early modern physics

Abstract

When the grounds of modern physics were laid out, two problems were seen as linked: money and moving forces. In particular, the connection was made in order to explain on the one hand the growth of money, i.e. capital through interests, and on the other hand the growth of speed, i.e. the causes for acceleration. The impetus theory which brought both problems together was used from the 14th century to the Renaissance (f.e. by Galilei). The effective paradigm for this explanation, however, was much older. It centred on the concept of male virtue (virtus) and the male role in procreation expressing the values of a strongly patriarchal society of warriors and the perceptions of an agricultural
subsistence economy. Yet, a series of environmental and political crises gave rise of new modes of production, changing the relation towards nature and brought forth the supremacy of market economy. This transition was accompanied by the radical re-organization of society that affected all aspects of life including cognitive structures, meanings and experiences. During these upheavals the central paradigm of thinking about growth was transformed and its fields of application, money and motion, were separated. From then on we have to strands: physics and economics, both appearing gender-neutral – but at closer inspection both gendered in different ways. The paper will look into the distinct genderings of physics and economy, how hidden connections related to gender issues have been perpetuated and what are the consequences today.