Replacement, renewal and redundancy

  • James Brown


In aristocratic societies, thought Alexis de Tocqueville, replacement by one’s heirs had something to recommend it: it led to the renewal of one’s family. Modern individuals are more likely to see replacement as threatening redundancy. Notwithstanding the way division of labour differentiates us, as Simmel, Marx and others have argued, modernity promotes an internalised vulnerability to substitution because of its tendency to atomised individualism. We may wish to be regarded as ends in ourselves, yet, especially in market transactions, we are apt to regard each other as substitutable means. Nevertheless, mortality ensures that in producing children we still practise self-replacement as renewal. The values attached to this kind of production are in revealing tension with attitudes to other kinds of production by which modern societies maintain themselves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK

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