Introduction: The Condition of England
This book looks at the long-standing, and often belligerent, disagreements over the nature and function of political economy, the most influential and controversial science of society in 19th-century England. To an extent that literary and cultural historians of the Romantic period have tended to forget, political economy was the dominant mode of social analysis in this period. The remarkable prominence of political economy during this period can be adequately explained only by reference to a variety of different causes, including public policy debates over such issues as monetary convertibility, poor law reform, protectionism, and the peculiarities of the wartime economy. The book argues that our inherited sense of the incompatibility between literary sensibility and economic science has obscured the extent to which early 19th-century political economy, and the debate on its legitimacy, scope, and function, played a formative role in the emergence of the idea of culture itself, as a humanistic or spiritual resource resistant to the intellectual enervation produced by modern, commercial societies.
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