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George Orwell On Money And Status

March 11, 2013

From Jack Shafer, by way of Andrew Sullivan, comes this penetrating and scathing prose from George Orwell:

The interesting thing about the New Albion was that it was so completely modern in spirit. There was hardly a soul in the firm who was not perfectly well aware that publicity – advertising – is the dirtiest ramp that capitalism has yet produced. In the red lead firm there had still lingered certain notions of commercial honor and usefulness. But such things would have been laughed at in the New Albion. Most the employees were the hard-boiled, Americanized, go-getting type to whom nothing in the world is sacred, except money. They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertizing is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket. And yet beneath their cynicism there was the final naivete, the blind worship of the money-god…

If ever there was a reminder of the incisiveness and scorn that Orwell could summon, that is it. The quote comes from Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying, which was published in 1936. The novel features Gordon Comstock, who tries to disdain and defy the Money God. Sadly, he loses (or at least his life is cast into misery). But  most of us know all about that, right?

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