Graduate School of the Humanities Blog

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Winter School 2015 – abstracts morning lectures

The Riddle of Value, or, Where to Begin?

Vicky Kirby

“Value” in the Saussurean sense is an economic notion, a system of differential exchange through which signification comes to reside in and as a word/concept with an apparently intrinsic value. We tend to assume that a sign is present because other signs are absent, but this is far from the case. Saussure argued that the sign is consubstantial with the system that gives it life, but if this is how a system “produces” worth and value then a simple presence/absence model – this is not that – seems unworkable. Indeed, we are left with the paradox that this is that, even when it appears to be entirely different, other and elsewhere. Could this sense of an inherent and originary entanglement implicate what we thought was material with/in what we presume is ideational? This paper will explore the broader implications of this riddle by questioning the nature/culture divide and the place of the biological body in our understanding of economy and value.

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