“The thing that differentiates man from animals is money” — Gertrude Stein
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In this quote, Gertrude Stein is proposing that money is a defining feature that separates humans from animals. The best interpretation is:
- Stein believes money is a uniquely human social and economic construct, as animals in the wild do not use currency or engage in monetary exchange.
- She sees the ability to generate, accumulate, spend and value money as central to modern civilization and commerce in a way that animals do not participate in.
- Stein’s view is that money underpins much of what humans do and the structures they have created, from trade to government to technology – it is a human-developed system that animals have no concept of or role in.
- The overall message is that according to Stein, money distinguishes humans from other species by being an abstract, yet hugely influential social tool that animals do not make use of, but which has come to shape core aspects of the human experience, society and relationships between people.