Synopses & Reviews
Long before Citizens United
and modern debates over corporations as people, such organizations already stood between the public and private as both vehicles for commerce and imaginative constructs based on groups of individuals. In this book, John Oandrsquo;Brien explores how this relationship played out in economics and literature, two fields that gained prominence in the same era.
Examining British and American essays, poems, novels, and stories from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, Oandrsquo;Brien pursues the idea of incorporation as a trope discernible in a wide range of texts. Key authors include John Locke, Eliza Haywood, Harriet Martineau, and Edgar Allan Poe, and each chapter is oriented around a type of corporation reflected in their works, such as insurance companies or banks. In exploring issues such as whether sentimental interest is the same as economic interest, these works bear witness to capitalismandrsquo;s effect on history and human labor, desire, and memory. This periodandrsquo;s imaginative writing, Oandrsquo;Brien argues, is where the unconscious of that process left its mark. By revealing the intricate ties between literary models and economic concepts, Literature Incorporated shows us how the business corporation has shaped our understanding of our social world and ourselves.
andldquo;This is not a simple history of ideas or a tracing of practices of incorporationandmdash;we already have enough of those. It is rather a deconstruction of the concept of the business corporation that asks in any number of ways how it is that these behemoths came to be naturalized and familiar to us. Sophisticated and always engaging, Literature Incorporated ranks up there with those great works that provide a history to a concept that weandrsquo;d never thought of before.andrdquo;
andldquo;Theoretically insightful and timely in the questions it raises, Literature Incorporated is an electrifying contribution to recent work on the relation of economics and imaginative writing from the mid-seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries. Oandrsquo;Brien reshapes the critical conversation in important ways, drawing attention to the actions the corporation made possible and the crises it precipitated. This is an exciting, substantial, and original study.andrdquo;
andldquo;Literature Incorporated uses the metaphor of incorporation to explore actual early corporations, Lockeandrsquo;s writings on money, the South Sea Bubble, insurance, abolitionist narratives, and eighteenth-century banking. This is an informed, intelligent, and unfailingly interesting example of how literary theory and economic history can enlighten each other.andrdquo;
Now in paperback: David Graeber’s “fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely” (Financial Times) history of debt
Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
About the Author
teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Because of his rokle in the creation of the Occupy movement, Business Week
has dubbed him the "Anti-leader" of Occupy Wall Street while the London Financial Times
has called Debt "Exceedingly timely." He is the author of Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value
, Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar
, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire, and Direct Action: An Ethnography
. He has written for Harper’s
, The Nation
, and The New Left Review
. In 2006, he delivered the Malinowski Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics, an annual talk that honors “outstanding anthropologists who have fundamentally shaped the study of culture.”
In the summer of 2011, he worked with a small group of activists and Adbusters magazine to plan Occupy Wall Street. Bloomberg Businessweek has called him an "anti-leader" of the movement. The Atlantic wrote that he "has come to represent the Occupy Wall Street message... expressing the group's theory, and its founding principles, in a way that truly elucidated some of the things people have questioned about it."
From the Hardcover edition.