Let $(C, \otimes)$ be a symmetric monoidal category (maybe braided is also okay). Then the category $\text{Mon}(C)$ of monoid objects in $C$ is also a symmetric monoidal category with the same monoidal product. The category $\text{Mon}(\text{Mon}(C))$ is, by the Eckmann-Hilton argument, just the category of commutative monoids in $C$; by a second application of Eckmann-Hilton, the process of constructing monoid categories stabilizes in the sense that the corresponding sequence of forgetful functors

$$... \to \text{Mon}(\text{Mon}(C)) \to \text{Mon}(C) \to C$$

stabilizes to a sequence of equivalences by the third functor at worst. However, the same argument shows that if $C$ is itself the category of monoids in some other symmetric monoidal category, then this sequence in fact stabilizes by the second functor, and if $C$ is itself the category of commutative monoids in some other symmetric monoidal category, then this sequence in fact stabilizes by the first functor.

So symmetric monoidal categories are divided up into three classes based on how soon the process of repeatedly constructing monoid categories stabilizes. Are there names for these three classes? Are there theorems characterizing them, for example theorems to the effect that if $C$ stabilizes early then it is nontrivially a category of monoids (not just $\text{Mon}(C)$ in the case that it stabilizes by the first functor)? (Vaguer question: is there some kind of homotopy-theoretic interpretation of these three classes?)

A somewhat nontrivial example of a category $C$ such that $\text{Mon}(C) \to C$ is already an equivalence is $C = \text{Set}^{op}$ with categorical coproduct (product in $\text{Set}$) as the monoidal product. This is due to the fact that every set has a unique comonoid structure given by the diagonal $X \ni x \mapsto (x, x) \in X \times X$. The corresponding monoid interpretation is that $\text{Set}^{op}$ can be realized as a suitable category of Boolean rings, which are commutative monoid objects in the category of abelian groups (with tensor product).

`$\operatorname{Mon}(C) \to C$`

is an inclusion of a full subcategory. Are there any examples of such $C$ where the monoidal structure is not unique, or at least where the map is not full? $\endgroup$ – Evan Jenkins Sep 4 '12 at 21:475more comments