Daily Archives: October 2, 2010

Incorporation (VIAL)

Monday we begin week two of the 3rd unit, the Incorporation of America. So far we’ve looked at a few film clips and I’ve lectured on the historical context of The Financier‘s moment of publication and the aesthetic context of Literary Naturalism. In addition, we’ve walked through the opening chapters of Dreiser’s novel. The important thing to remember is that both 1) the lecture on the changing nature of labor in the United States during the Machine Age and 2) the documentary on the Homestead Strike function as backdoors into The Financier. They offer a contrast to the world described by Dreiser, the realm of Finance Capital, by focusing on manufacturing and blue collar labor. Many of the “izations” we referenced in lecture– mechanization, industrialization, standardization, routinization (and, for that matter, “ifications” as well, such as electrification)– were dependent on yet another economic process: capitalization. The cases of electrification and the building of railways are instructive. In contrast to Canada, for example, these massive undertakings were ultimately driven by private capital. The railroad companies received almost obscenely profligate sweetheart deals from the federal government: vast swathes of land were given away, and a minimum of oversight ensured that the greedy were able to “water” their stock. Various forms of state largesse not only produced the conditions which laid track across the continent, but stuffed the pockets of financiers sharp enough to work the system.

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