The Political Economy of Swift's Satires and other Prose Works

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Jonathan Swift wrote perceptively about the emerging commercial society
in Britain in the early eighteenth century. His particular focus was on the
financial revolution and its implications for economic and political stability
as well as for shifts of power between the landed and commercial
classes. Following his return to Ireland Swift’s focus shifted to the developmental
problems of his native country. In several pamphlets he advocated
consumption of domestic products, challenged existing political
structures and made trenchant criticisms of absenteeism and other dysfunctional
aspects of the land tenure system. Swift’s politico-economic
concerns are fully reflected in his best known work, Gulliver’s Travels but
his most pointed criticism of the emerging commercial system is contained
in A Modest Proposal. Written in the form of an economic pamphlet, A
Modest Proposal is ostensibly designed to address the problem of poverty
in Ireland. In addition to its implicit criticism of economic policy in Ireland,
the pamphlet challenges the separation of economics and morality as
evidenced in the writings of William Petty and Bernard Mandeville. Swift
parodies Petty’s political arithmetic but it is suggested here that he also
had in his sights the consequentialist reasoning present in the work of
both authors but explicitly so in Mandeville.
Keywords: financial revolution, public debt, paper credit, rationality, political
arithmetic, consequentialism, Petty (William), Mandeville (Bernard)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-619
Number of pages22
JournalOeconomia
Volume4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • financial revolution, public debt, paper credit, rationality, political arithmetic, consequentialism, Petty, Mandeville

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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