When Poetic License is Licentious -If harmless in a Free Society
Warwick Thompson reports for Bloomberg Businessweek on a play by Bruce “Clybourne Park” Norris’s new Hogarthian satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. "Banker Preaches Greed”, Princess Chases Power: U.K. Stage HERE
"The 18th-century founder of modern capitalism was Adam Smith, not the Marquis de Sade.
You might be forgiven for getting confused after seeing Bruce “Clybourne Park” Norris’s new Hogarthian satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
Jim Trumpett, the energetic anti-hero of “The Low Road,” is a young merchant on the make in colonial America.
He praises the works of Smith and believes that self- interest is a divinely ordained “invisible hand.”
The satirical theme of this play is inverted nonsense to make a moral point that necessarily is acceptable in a free society. T’is a pity that its author, Master Bruce Norris, libels ye innocent Adam Smith’s reputation in exercising his rights to free speech. T’is also plain wrong and that’s the rub.
Norris merely articulates what many commentators have been told by senior members of the academy who parody daily the role of Adam Smith in the 18th century.
“Capitalism” was not founded in the 18th century nor any other century by anyone and certainly not by Adam Smith, a moral philosopher who never engaged in commercial business or even had a vote.
Moreover he did not even know of the word “capitalism” – it was not invented as a word in English until 1854. I think also, the Marquis de Sade was also innocent of inventing “capitalism”, at least on this specific charge, whatever else he was up to.
It took several centuries for commercial, non-agricultural, economic relationships to develop from around the c.14th century.
Nobody drew a blueprint for a commercial revival after the Western European continent was overrun by Warlord armies fallowing the Fall of Rome in the 5th century. It emerged from the actions of generations of individuals without their being motivated by the unintended consequences of what they were doing.
And there were many rogues and rascals among their number, as well as many innocents just trying to survive in whatever circumstances they found themselves and their families in. These included not a few ‘vile rulers of mankind’ (as Smith remarked).
Norris’s Jim Trumpett, may make an excellent character “as the energetic anti-hero” as “a young merchant on the make in colonial America”, but that too may be a caricature of ‘Colonial America”, itself built on European invasion and dispossession of lands already occupied by the relatives of the same earlier invasive humans from Africa via Siberia from 11,000 years earlier.
Who “designed” or “invented” their “hunter-gatherer-ism”? The question is a daft as asserting that Adam Smith, who wrote about the history of commercial society as a professor of moral philosophy in the 18th century 'invented capitalism". He interpreted what was happening, like many others too; that was all.
We know Adam Smith also wrote about those early societies, as he did about commercialism not "capitalism". Perhaps Norris could extend his blanket nonsense about Adam Smith being the author of capitalist human miseries to those caused by other humans upon each other since the speciation of proto-humans in the lines of evolution as apes several million years ago?