What would Emerson think of 21st century American capitalism?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With the government take-over of General Motors and a president of the company appointed by the government, and the many governmental subsidies, it is becoming doubtful if the economic condition of the United States is still capitalistic.

And, now that the exchange of ideas has been reduced to sound bytes and the repetition of popular phrases, the man who said,

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide...Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity.  Self-reliance is its aversion" would see his words come to reality

would realize the profundity of his words.  Emerson would quickly perceive in our country the sacrifice of thought for comfort.  Conformity, indeed, is the word.  Whereas Emerson thought that "whosoever would be a man must be a nonconformist," in this 21st century, there are few who are; afterall, "to be great is to be misunderstood" and people all want to be understood. 

Emerson believed that people mistook advancements in science, technology, and material welfare as progress; real progress depends upon the individual himself who must look to himself for sociological advancement.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the previous two posts were very strong and absolutely dead on with their analysis.  I will be a bit off of the worn path.  One thing that Emerson would like, in terms of his belief in individuality, non- conformity, and seeking to establish new elements of discourse, would be the proliferation of online business.  I think Emerson would see the internet, in its most theoretical application, as a field where individual talent and diversity can be set free.  In a world without boundaries (certainly cyberspace would constitute as such), human endeavor and freedom would know little end and I think Emerson would like this aspect in that it allows for individuals to partake in the business scene.  If we were looking at it from a strictly theoretical point of view and the nature of the question is theoretical, Emerson might be attracted to the promises and possibilities of the internet and business growth within it.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

He would definitely deplore globalization and the trend of delocalization, against which the "little guy" is so vulnerable. He would probably approve of union strikes as a fair means to arm wrestle with the management levels and would give the green light for any other form of cooperate resistance.

When his friend Thoreau was once thrown in jail for not paying taxes (he thought it was abusive towards the citizen), Emerson, along with some of Thoreau's relatives, finally bailed him out. Emerson might get a good laugh out of the fiscal arrangements currently going on between the US government and various tax havens. He might tell the white-collar tycoon investors that it was high time they got served with their own sauce.

Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question