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Introduction

  • Ted Underwood

Abstract

“The source of all labour is the sun,” Chambers’s Journal informed its readers in 1866. “All the labour done under the sun is really done by it.” The glide from “done under” to “done by” concisely dramatizes the appeal of this claim, which was by the 1860s a commonplace of British journalism. The light revealing the world and the labor shaping it are two aspects of a single protean power. The sun, as the source of that power, binds the natural order to the order of economic production—at once personifying natural force as a worker, and elevating work to an ontological principle. In the words of the scientific lecturer John Tyndall: “every mechanical action on the earth s surface, every manifestation of power, organic and inorganic, vital and physical, is produced by the sun. … He builds the forest and hews it down, the power which raised the tree, and which wields the axe, being one and the same.”1

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Natural Force Natural Philosopher Natural Power Middle Rank 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    “The Source of Labour,” Chambers’s Journal, 4th series, 3 (1866): 555–56. John Tyndall, Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion (New York: D. Appleton, 1864), 446–47.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 1990), 3, 69–83, 179–237.Google Scholar
  3. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Vintage, 1977), 283.Google Scholar
  4. For the late-nineteenth-century literary ramifications of productivism, see Mark Seltzer, Bodies and Machines (New York: Routledge, 1992);Google Scholar
  5. also Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001).Google Scholar
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    John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Scott Elledge (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 94 (4:618–22).Google Scholar
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    William Godwin, Caleb Williams, ed. David McCracken (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 218–19.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
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  9. See also P. M. Heimann and J. E. McGuire, “Newtonian Forces and Lockean Powers: Concepts of Matter in Eighteenth-Century Thought,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 3 (1971): 233–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Stephen Wallech, “‘Class Versus Rank’: The Transformation of Eighteenth-Century English Social Terms and Theories of Production,” Journal of the History of Ideas 47 (1986): 409–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Isaac Kramnick, Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 60. The phrase “republican tradition” is appropriate in this context, although the assumptions under discussion could in principle be adapted to non-republican forms of government.Google Scholar
  12. See John Robertson, “The Scottish Enlightenment at the Limits of the Civic Tradition,” Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment, ed. Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 138.Google Scholar
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  16. 10.
    David Simpson, from whom I draw the phrase “agrarian idealism,” has described a very similar tension. See Simpson, Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement (New York: Methuen, 1987), 56–78.Google Scholar
  17. 11.
    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. R. H. Campbell, A. S. Skinner, and W. B. Todd, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 1:364–65.Google Scholar
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    Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 127, 130–31.Google Scholar
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    Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 227–42, 271n, 268–319.Google Scholar
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    PW 2:142–44. David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Works and Correspondence, ed. Pierro Sraffa and M. H. Dobb, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 1:69.Google Scholar
  21. 16.
    Antoine Lavoisier and Armand Seguin, “Premier mémoire sur la respiration des animaux,” in Antoine Lavoisier, Œuvres, 7 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1862), 2:688–703.Google Scholar
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    G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), 103.Google Scholar
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    John F. W. Herschel, A Treatise of Astronomy (London: Longman, 1833), 211. Thomas Carlyle, The Works of Thomas Carlyle, 30 vols. (New York: Scribner’s, 1896), 1:56.Google Scholar

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© Ted Underwood 2005

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  • Ted Underwood

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