Sunday, January 02, 2005

Marxism for the masses
Because Karl Marx is barely intelligible even for die-hard communists, the AtlanticBlog offers this exegesis of the great philosopher by the highly readable Jane Austen:

From each according to his abilities:

“I think, Edward,” said Mrs. Dashwood as they were at breakfast the last morning, “you would be a happier man if you had any profession to engage your time and give an interest to your plans and actions. Some inconvenience to your friends, indeed, might result from it: you would not be able to give them so much of your time. But (with a smile) you would be materially benefited in one particular at least: you would know where to go when you left them.”

“I do assure you,” he replied, “that I have long thought on this point, as you think now. It has been and is and probably will always be a heavy misfortune to me that I have had no necessary business to engage me, no profession to give me employment, or afford me anything like independence. But unfortunately my own nicety and the nicety of my friends have made me what I am: an idle, helpless being. We could never agree in our choice of a profession. I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel enough; many young men who had chambers in the Temple made a very good appearance in the first circles and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse study of it which my family approved. As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter it; and at length, as there was no necessity for my having any profession at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without a red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced on the whole to be the most advantageous and honourable, and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestly bent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his friends to do nothing. I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since.”


To each according to his needs:

“I believe you are right, my love; it will be that there should be no annuity in the case; whatever I may give them occasionally will be of far greater assistance than a yearly allowance, because they will only enlarge their style of living if they felt sure of a larger income and would not be sixpence the richer for it at the end of the year. It will certainly be much the best way. A present of fifty pounds, now and then, will prevent their ever being distressed for money, and will, I think, be amply discharging my promise to my father.”

“To be sure it will. Indeed, to say the truth, I am convinced within myself that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all. The assistance he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season. I’ll lay my life that he meant nothing further; indeed, it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did. Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a year apiece, and of course they will pay their mother for their board out of it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.”

2 comments:

shinta said...

Thanks for posting this. Now I can re-read Sense and Sensibility with renewed interest. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Paano kaya kung, instead of Marxism, we had Austenism? Now that's something.