“Getting and Spending”: European Literature and Economics in the Long Nineteenth Century location:Leuven (BE) date:10-12 December 2014
Famously, Thomas Robert Malthus proposed that, when one considers the relationship between population growth and the increase in food supply, numerical operations could be a means to predict and explain the fundamental hardships of life; a perspective that for Charles Darwin (at least, according to himself) proved to be a key factor in formulating his own theory of evolution. No less famously, one of the writers who throughout his career furtively attempted to imagine evolution in his fiction, made his debut with the story of a future society marked by the uncanny extrapolation of labour relations into deep time (well, 802701 years deep). Although H. G. Wells was in no way a stranger to the nitty-gritty of economic policy, this paper will not discuss the plethora of propositions and initiatives that can be found in the Wells’s socio-political tracts (most notably those in The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind ). Rather, it will attempt to explain H. G. Wells’s curious imagination in The Time Machine (1895) as an instance of political economy whereby the chaotic multitude of human history is reduced to a duality between the Morlocks and the Eloi in order to imagine the forces at work deep within human society itself, but also, to exert the power of the imagination – of the time machine as narrative strategy – to apprehend mechanism as fundamental to humanity formation.