Money and Society


A few weeks after he had been elected the President of the United States of America in 1928, Herbert Hoover presented his entirely new economic policy: the government should encourage demand by way of targeted spending and thus bring about general prosperity. Those who claim that literature has no influence on your lives, find themselves disabused based on this case. For Hoover’s program was inspired by a book, which had been published just a few months beforehand: “The Road to Plenty”. It tells the story of a group of fairly diverse travellers who discuss economic relations on a train ride. A smart businessman comes to the conclusion that a policy much like the one initiated by Hoover, would greatly benefit society.

Money, society, and literature. This is an enormous field, seeing as money and economy are an element of human life which is so pivotal that almost anything and everything revolves around it. The desire for more money is an ever-present topic in novels, stories, and movies. But unlike scientific papers, literature can do more than just encourage a hands-on discussion of our economic system, as the aforementioned, and admittedly very specific, case demonstrates.

Literature presents itself as a sort of prism, in which all facets of human life are refracted and any individual’s actions, fears, desires, and wishes are spread out against the backdrop of the zeitgeist of their surroundings. Let’s look at the young and successful Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”: he lives high on the hog in his palace by the ocean in the Roaring Twenties, he’s adored and envied by both men and women, he’s constantly the center of attention – and he nevertheless drifts along as a lonely and unhappy human being whose life is void of purport and fulfillment.

Gatsby supposedly had everything, namely money. How far will people go for money? This is perhaps one of the most fascinating initial questions that could lead to ethical experiments. “Skinvertisement” caused quite a stir several years ago. People had accepted money in return for their bodies being turned into walking advertising media through permanent tattoos. Friedrich Dürrenmatt takes this question of our bribability even further in “The Visit”: The older lady, who has returned to her hometown, wants the townspeople to kill a man in exchange for one billion.

The Sunflower Foundation offers an extensive library of carefully-selected books in which the characters and actions demonstrate the extent to which money and our economy influence our lives. This question has not yet been sufficiently analyzed. Literary scholars, sociologists, economists, and other experts offer numerous possibilities to jointly explore the reciprocity of economy and the individual.

Literary and cinematic works fill ethical theories with life and transfer them to our world. Hence, if we want to question how we relate money and economy to our every-day lives, what value we attach to money, and how we want to set the course for future generations in regards to dealing with financial issues and property, then there’s no getting around the analysis of works of art. They are the key to a true understanding of humanity.

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