Eco-Marxist analysis of Thoreau’s “Economy”

Thoreau sees men as sad cog in the economic wheel. He argues that men should aspire to something greater than producing for the sake of producing and that blending ones livelihood with a hard economic focus robs us of our greatest pleasures. “Look at the teamster in the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests?” (Thoreau 8 )

Economic demand and the way which people pay for their dwellings are also reviled by Thoreau. He proves that for a year’s rent, one could build their own home and suggests that “he must have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam will be earned.” (Thoreau 25 )

He notes that factories during the time produced not to cloth the cold but so that “the corporations may be enriched.” (Thoreau 19) Instead Thoreau suggests that providing for oneself is the best method of attaining the necessities of life, and doing so will increase a persons freedom, both economically and spiritually. Personally I agree with Thoreau. People too often trade large amount \s of time for money, for which they trade for goods. But all too often I’ve created something valuable out of something that had little apparent worth. Besides the practical benefits of doing things for yourself, stimulation of the mind and knowledge through experience has an enriching effect.  “Which would have advanced the most at the end of the month,–the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this,– or the boy who had attended lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the mean while, and had received a Rodgers penknife (an expensive manufactured knife) from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his fingers?” (Thoreau 39)


One response to this post.

  1. A big part of Thoreau is also his redefinition of what “serious” life is, or rather what is a noble pursuit if capitalism is not. In this way I would argue a central component to this text is his attempt at understanding nature. I think that his socioeconomic critique was inspired by his experiences outside of the system, not the other way around.

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