By Michael T. Gilmore
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Extra resources for American Romanticism and the Marketplace
Thoreau's attack on democracy in "Civil Disobediencey'],contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or import his groceries for him. [Pp. 6-71 Thoreau's position in this passage is directly opposed to the laissezfaire ideology gaining in popularity among his contemporaries. He sees the marketplace not as a discipline in self-reliance, an arena where the man of enterprise can prove his worth, but rather as a site of humiliation where the seller has to court and conciliate potential buyers to gain their custom.
Thoreau makes a point of actually farming in the traditional way: going down to the woods and living by himself, because he refuses to sacrifice the use value of husbandry to its symbolic value in the manner of Flint. H e wants to earn his metaphor by dwelling "near enough to Nature and Truth to borrow a trope from them" (P- 245)Thoreau has an acute sense of the relationship between commodity and symbolism-or rather of the commodified thinking concealed in symbolization. , money); on Flint's farm, the something else has totally displaced the concrete reality.
Because they interact through the commodities they exchange, including the commodity of labor, individuals in the capitalist market confront each other not as human beings, but as objectified, nonhuman entities. They lose sight altogether of the subjective element in their activity. An important corollary to this loss of the person is a confusion of history with nature. " He perceives the social realm as an immutable and universal order over which he exerts no control. ~ Thoreau reaches a similar conclusion about the decline of liberty under capitalism: he portrays his townsmen as slave-drivers of themselves.
American Romanticism and the Marketplace by Michael T. Gilmore