The Connecticut Yankee, His Competitors And Servants

I was startled to find Twain’s “Connecticut Yankee’” pronouncing that “Two of a trade must not underbid one another”. The Yankee was supposed to be the epitome of innovative, dynamic nineteenth century capitalism, but in fact this maxim was part of the medieval world-view that Twain is so crudely satirising. The medieval idea was that each economic player – provided that he was of demonstrated competence – should be guaranteed a decent living, rather than subjected to a game of “Beggar-thy-neighbour”. Twain did not appear to consider the tradesman as merely a tool to optimise the interests of the final customer, who is now deemed the only party deserving of dignity and protection; in our day the supplier – whether industrial worker or small entrepreneur – is to be squeezed, and squeezed again, so that the Holy Consumer may flourish.

Of course, in Twain’s day there was no question of guild solidarity among a large class of people that subsequently more or less disappeared – domestic servants. His “tradesman” would probably have had one or two of these himself. It may thus be that the modern focus on the Consumer as a kind of moral yardstick is the contemporary form taken by the timeless ideology of the servant-owning classes – namely, that servants should be invisible, obedient and cheap.

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 10:07 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, From Free To Unfree Labour

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