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By D. Hawkes

Postmodern society turns out incapable of elaborating a moral critique of the industry financial system. Early sleek society confirmed no such reticence. among 1580 and 1680, Aristotelian teleology was once changed because the dominant mode of philosophy in England by way of Baconian empiricism. This used to be a technique with implications for each sphere of lifestyles: for politics and theology, economics and ethics, and aesthetics and sexuality. via nuanced and unique readings of Shakespeare, Herbert, Donne, Milton, Traherne, Bunyan, and the antitheatrical controversy, David Hawkes sheds mild on early glossy debates over idolatry, monetary price, and exchange. Hawkes argues that the folks of Renaissance England believed that the decline of telos ended in a reified, fetishistic mode of awareness which manifests itself in such phenomena as non secular idolatry, commodity fetishism, and carnal sensuality. He means that the ensuing early glossy critique of the marketplace economic climate has a lot to supply postmodern society.

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Additional info for Idols of the Marketplace: Idolatry and Commodity Fetishism in English Literature, 1580-1680 (Early Modern Cultural Studies)

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Thus the material shape of the ball of wax, from the Baconian perspective, is to be understood as an end in itself. From the Aristotelian perspective, by contrast, it is to be regarded as a sign, an indication of an anterior, ultimate cause—the intention of the molder—which, while not material or empirically perceptible, is nonetheless immanent within the waxen orb. Over the last three or four centuries, human experience has been characterized by a gradual displacement of things by signs, of reality by representation.

Aristotle gives a strong ethical priority to use value over exchange value. Commerce is necessary, he concedes, to provide the comforts of civilized life, but it must always remember, and be reminded, of its subsidiary role. Money’s proper purpose, its telos, is to facilitate the exchange of goods that are useful in themselves. It is, properly speaking, a sign. It is not, then, an end in itself, and to regard it as such is to reverse the ethical hierarchy of custom and nature. To adopt the terminology of modern economics, Aristotle looks benignly on the exchange cycle C-M-C, whereby commodities (C) are exchanged for one another through the medium of money (M).

It is impossible, for example, to follow the argument of Milton’s divorce tracts without understanding the connection he assumes between Papist “idolatry,” carnal sensuality, Judaic “legalism,” and hermeneutic literalism. We think of these errors (if we consider them errors at all) as utterly different in kind. For Milton, in contrast, they are essentially manifestations of the same fundamental error: the mistaking of the sign for the referent. And this, in turn, is one aspect of the displacement of final by efficient cause.

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