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



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



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