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date: 24 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Literary scholars writing in the wake of recent financial crises tend to associate economic discourse with an uncritical promulgation of (neo)liberal ideology—a tendency that can produce myopic assessments of the role which turn-of-the-century economists played in early critiques of laissez-faire. This essay pays attention to early critiques which emerged within the discipline of economics, and it places them in relation to a range of literary works, including novels by Anthony Trollope, Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells, and E. M. Forster. Taken together these case studies suggest that there is a need to rethink the dominant literary‒historical account according to which the theorization of consumerism in marginal utility economics was the single most significant intellectual contribution by economists to the development of British literature around 1900.

Keywords: welfare, laissez-faire, economics, literature, liberalism, Forster, Wells, Conrad, Trollope

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