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Gallagher on Counterfactuals

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Return to Book Page. The Body Economic revises the intellectual history of nineteenth-century Britain by demonstrating that political economists and the writers who often presented themselves as their literary antagonists actually held most of their basic social assumptions in common.

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Catherine Gallagher demonstrates that political economists and their Romantic and early-Victorian critics join The Body Economic revises the intellectual history of nineteenth-century Britain by demonstrating that political economists and the writers who often presented themselves as their literary antagonists actually held most of their basic social assumptions in common. Catherine Gallagher demonstrates that political economists and their Romantic and early-Victorian critics jointly relocated the idea of value from the realm of transcendent spirituality to that of organic "life," making human sensations--especially pleasure and pain--the sources and signs of that value.

Classical political economy, this book shows, was not a mechanical ideology but a form of nineteenth-century organicism, which put the body and its feelings at the center of its theories, and neoclassical economics built itself even more self-consciously on physiological premises.

The Body Economic explains how these shared views of life, death, and sensation helped shape and were modified by the two most important Victorian novelists: Charles Dickens and George Eliot. It reveals how political economists interacted crucially with the life sciences of the nineteenth century--especially with psychophysiology and anthropology--producing the intellectual world that nurtured not only George Eliot's realism but also turn-of-the-century literary modernism. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages.

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I am pretty sure the natural home of this book is a university library. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed it. It is a difficult read but quite absorbing. Hard Times was the only one of the books discussed that I have read myself. Through his defense of the work of the circus players, Dickens unwittingly apes the work of political economists on the distinction between productive and unproductive labor.

Rather, the activity itself, once defined as work or not work, helps bring about the sensations associated with it.


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An activity, like that of the circus performers, can be play, and evoke pleasure, under one set of circumstances, or work, and evoke pain, under another Comparative anthropology in Britain developed in two widely divergent yet Malthusian directions. Researchers focused on the organization of culture around population pressures, specifically the need to repress sexual desire and increase food resources, in the work of McLennan and Charles Darwin, respectively.

Hence, the modernist idea of culture, modernist literature, and modernist literary criticism all stand as part of the legacy of Malthus But Gallagher misses an opportunity to examine how British political economists attempted to impose their own view of mental operations upon the world. Followers of Smith believed that their educational mission, if not economically productive, at least produced, in the language of the day, useful knowledge.

This would simultaneously make political economy more of a science, and avoid the involvement of the discipline in arguments about the ethical implications of its analysis. By mid-century, however, Senior was not so sanguine about the possibility of turning political economy into a science.

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The Body Economic : Catherine Gallagher :

The rage for political economy also sharpened uncertainty over who was or could claim to be a political economist. This was no different from what James Mill and most self-identified political economists did. Critics happily excoriated Martineau as a political economist on the basis of Illustrations.


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  5. And if the facts of political economy lay within the reach of almost everyone, could everyone claim to be a political economist? He is currently working on a study of eighteenth and nineteenth-century travel writing and British political economy. Oxford: Clarendon Press,