This article constitutes a critique of abstraction as an analytic tool. The argument advances the idea that formalizing practices are indexical; that is, the way abstractions are realized necessarily incorporates features of the context in which they are produced. The expression formalizing practices refers to a series of actions or operations that make quantification, rationalization, and standardization possible. Entailed in all these procedures is an attempt to select and isolate features that exemplify a specific phenomenon or social process, or in the case of standardization, that stipulate its contours and dimensions. These features are presumed to be immanent from the start, but in fact, formal representations are carefully crafted, finely tuned instruments. In order to clarify these practices, I delineate three phases of their construction: the conceptual phrase, the choice of analytic strategy, and the specification of its formal representation. In other words, this approach suggests the value of examining formalizing projects as crucibles where cultural assumptions and practical reasoning are condensed into formulae. These ideas are explored in relation to the use of time and motion studies employed in early socialist Hungary to determine the new socialist wage system. While a decidedly local story, the implications of the analysis are much broader. The possibility of adopting this approach to the study of other formalizing practices, such as algorithmic systems and digital databases, is suggested. The analysis also raises questions about the commensurability of long-held concepts in social theory.