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Extra resources for A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (A Lively Learning Guide by Shmoop)
I share with Marx and Jameson a concern that the complexity and opacity of capitalist exchange diffuses the sense of moral penalty for greedy and exploitative behaviour that might have been a little easier to grasp in a simpler social system. Those who cannot understand the system’s dynamic complexities, whether expressed in a nineteenth- century trade union law or a twenty-first- century credit default swap, are vulnerable to being cheated without realizing it. 29 The main difference between the theoretical and the narrative approach to the moral challenges of capitalism is that novels must apportion individual blame and virtue at the same time as they trace the diffusion of any action through the social network; so there may be villains whose victims are complicit, and virtuous intentions undone by others’ folly.
British novels tend to be a little more strongly committed to the promises of the new economic order, and perhaps are more vividly self- conscious about the paradoxical connection between this optimistic future and the failures that may lead up to it – but the literature of many countries at this time contains an element of ludic dismay at the uncontrollable nature of the new society, and a search for intellectual and emotional ways of erecting boundaries against it. In the Conclusion to this volume, I speculate incompletely about how other national responses to invisible hand social theory are affected by their dates of industrialization and relation to British economic power.
Invisible hand social theory is already implicitly spatial in its displacement of the effects of moral actions from the agent onto some remote person, or onto ‘society’ itself. 28 He thus connects modernist form with the economic moment of global imperialism, but the moments of turbulence and comedy I trace in earlier novels are responding not just to the achieved fact of imperialism but to the possibility of vast cosmopolitan chains of moral connection that is already implied in Smith’s theory.
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