Progressive reformers thus were about nothing if not channeling potentially explosive energies into conventionally productive practices. The question arises: How does one express this relationship between vitality and containment, control and release? We can reject duality at the outset, and other, more appropriate words quickly come to mind—dialectics, ambivalence, coexistence, blending and merging. The two entities become one, but not quite. There is still room, as Simone Weil observed in her penetrating exploration of human consciousness, for “a sort of dialogue between the continuous and the discontinuous”—between computation and continuity, numbers and flow. But the dialogue can turn into territorial warfare.15
Perhaps the best way to show the uneasy cohabitation of those two modes of thought in one mind is to examine the most influential quantifying vitalist, the Yale economist Irving Fisher. More than anyone else, Fisher brought the emerging science of statistics into the arena where political economy and public policy meet. Fisher pioneered not just in categorizing people but in monetizing them, body and soul. He moved statistics from mere counting to cost accounting and cost-benefit analysis. Everything had its cash value; money could be used to measure the value of anything.
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