A Tale of Two Capitalisms: Sacred Economics in Nineteenth-Century Britain
By: Supritha Rajan (author)Paperback
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By examining the "double narrative of capitalism," Supritha Rajan's A Tale of Two Capitalisms traces how certain values and practices were segregated from the dominant model of capitalism, not only through the secularization of political economy as a discipline but also by anthropology, which theorized "sacrifice" or "ritual" in the context of "primitive" society. This first and dominant narrative is the one that political economy has more openly told about itself: one wherein unfettered, laissez-faire competition and self-interested individualism enable liberal, progressive societies continually to advance and amass economic prowess. Rajan argues that this dominant narrative of capitalism obscures a second, submerged narrative within political economy that was gradually disinherited over the course of the nineteenth century. In this second narrative, notions of the sacred/profane, sacrifice, ritual, and magic articulate a broader ethical investment in ideals of communality, reciprocity, and just distributionthat is continuously endangered by political economy's own models of self-interest.
Whereas anthropologists categorized such practices as "primitive" or "pre-modern," literary thinkers incorporated notions of "the sacred" in their critiques of capitalism in a manner that stood distinguished from the "primitive" and also positioned these critiques ideologically as an alternative to capitalism, gesturing back to a premodern past. These modes of sacralization surface most forcefully in political economic thought at moments of crisis to mediate the economic inequalities, ethical anxieties, and fractured social relations - such as the French Revolution and Dickens's literary response. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this book, Rajan's aim is to match attentiveness to rhetorical strategies and language - so long a feature of literary criticism - with a conceptual rigor that attends to argumentative structure and form.
Supritha Rajan is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Rochester, USA.
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- ID: 9780472052554
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