Thursday, November 20, 2008

Readings: Keynes (4)

"What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend. He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighboring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice."
John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

1 comment:

Ry. H. said...

"The word 'philistine', as is well known, belongs to the student vocabulary, and signifies, in its wider, popular sense, the antithesis of a son of the muses, of the artist, of the man of genuine culture. The cultural philistine, however---the study of whom, and the hearing of whose confessions when he makes them, has now become a disagreeable duty---distinguishes himself from the general idea of the species 'philistine' through a superstition: he fancies that he is himself a son of the muses and man of culture; an incomprehensible delusion which reveals that he does not even know what a philistine, and the antithesis of a philistine, is: so we shall not be surprised to find that usually he solemnly denies he is a philistine. With this lack of all self-knowledge, he feels firmly convinced that his 'culture' is the complete expression of true German culture: and since he everywhere discovers cultivated people of his own kind, and finds all public institutions, schools and cultural and artistic bodies organized in accordance with his kind of cultivation and in the service of his requirements, he also bears with him everywhere the triumphant feeling of being the worthy representative of contemporary German culture and frames his demands and pretensions accordingly."

Frederich Nietzsche, David Strauss, the confessor and the writer (1873)