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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.4, 629 ~ 650, 2018
Reconsidering Robinson Crusoe as Homo Economicus
이석구 Suk Koo Rhee
To date, one of the prevailing criticisms of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe has seen the adventure novel as a celebration of the rise of mercantile capitalism and the beginnings of colonialism. From this point of view, the Englishman has often been interpreted as an early embodiment of the concept of the sovereign economic subject. Prominent social critics who took up this interpretation have included Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Within literary studies proper, the work of Ian Watt offered perhaps the earliest version of this point of view of the novel. Influenced by both Weber and Rousseau, Ian Watt argued that Defoe’s wandering protagonist embodies the rise of economic individualism. More recent criticism has tended to challenge this dominant interpretation by laying greater stress on such countervailing factors as Crusoe’s mental uncertainty and inner conflict. Drawing inspiration from Fredric Jameson’s diagnosis of the ills of late capitalism, this paper analyzes the ways in which Defoe’s hero, rather than championing modern rationality, can in fact be seen as suffering from many forms of emotional psychosis. Robinson Crusoe can, after all, be better viewed as a contradictory multi-layered text that, despite its outward valorization of economic individualism, portrays its hero as a victim of negative capitalistic forces, a hero driven by his desire to possess but haunted by a fear of loss, a hero who flaunts inflated feelings of self-worth even as he reveals deflated notions of material insecurity and mental persecution.
Key Words
마르크스, 이안 와트, 로빈슨 크루소, 자본주의, 경제인, Marx, Ian Watt, Robinson Crusoe, capitalism, homo economicus
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