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The Political-Economic Critique and the Creative Destruction Cycle in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land

艾略特的經濟、文化《荒原》及其創造性破壞循環

Abstracts


Scholars have occasionally drawn attention to the macro-/microeconomic concerns in T. S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land. It has been suggested that Eliot's depiction of the wasteland refers specifically to the City of London, the capital's chief financial district where Eliot spent his working hours as a bank clerk. However, comprehensive analyses of these aspects are still lacking. By reading Eliot's correspondence, we learn that Eliot was informed by different schools of economic theory. He keenly observed economic activity and its corresponding social and political consequences. Through an exploration of the macro-/microeconomic phenomena that resonate throughout The Waste Land, this paper argues that underneath its apparent portrayal of an urban apocalypse lies a sustained political-economic argument in dialogue with Aristotle, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Joseph Schumpeter. The poem addresses the failings of an existing economic system that prioritizes wealth accumulation for its own sake (chrematistics) and disregards wealth distribution, efficient uses of resources, and genuine economic growth through innovation to foster overall prosperity (economics). By re-evaluating the challenges of modernity, particularly the chrematistic trend of modern economics, The Waste Land epitomizes modernist innovation as a force of "creative destruction" that, in realizing individual talent and freedom to craft inventive frameworks, brings about paradigm shifts and systematic changes in economic and cultural realms.

Parallel abstracts


時常有學者表示艾略特的《荒原》意在展現英國第一次世界大戰後的金融荒原,卻少有研究深入論述《荒原》裡所描述的經濟現象背後的意涵。時任倫敦勞合銀行全職行員的艾略特不但對當時身為歐洲金融中心的倫敦城的經濟活動所帶來的區域政治與社會影響觀察入微,更是廣泛涉獵最新經濟學論述。這位立志成為專業作家的哈佛哲學系博士生,以《荒原》突破性的手法展演並探索當代政治經濟的危機與轉機。此論文探討艾略特藉由《荒原》一詩所展現出來的個體與總體經濟現象,進一步地論述《荒原》的末世城市描繪實質為一則與亞里斯多德、馬克思、凱因斯以及熊彼得對話的政治經濟論證。《荒原》以其層層歷史文化典故陳述人類經濟擴張與掠取及倫理學概念的變革,從過去亞里斯多德《尼科馬哥倫理學》以個人/整體幸福為最終要點,講求資源分配、高效能源利用、以創新技術帶來整體繁榮的經濟學轉化為以財富累積為目的的財富金融學。堪稱英國現代主義文化里程碑的《荒原》以其新式文類句構具體呈現創造性破壞為現代革新的主要力量,在破除傳統框架、實現個人天分與自由的同時,進一步在經濟文化層面帶來典範轉移與系統性的變革。

References


Albjerg, Victor L. “British Finance: 1914-1939.” Current History, vol. 24, no. 140, 1953, pp. 193-200.
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Terence Irwin, 2nd ed., Hackett Publishing Company, 1999.
Aristotle. Politics. Translated by Ernest Barker, Oxford UP, 1995.
Bergson, Henri. Creative Evolution. Translated by Arthur Mitchell, Macmillan, 1911.
Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Thetford, 1983.

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