The Order of the Eternal Social Conscience, Part 2
A Ghostly Play in Five Acts
Karl Marx, of London, England
Max Weber, of Heidelberg, Germany
Emile Durkheim of Paris, France
W.E.B. DuBois of Atlanta, USA
Special Guest Appearance
Charles Dickens of London
As Narrated to Jerri Bedwell of California, USA
This Matter of Love, Money, and Class
“These are but shadows of things that have been.” (Dickens)
“I must say, Mr. Dickens, you see into the very heart of a man,” says Du Bois. “This is perhaps my second favorite part of your tale. To see where a man has been and to know of his transformations from poor neglected boy to hopeful and vibrant youth, to wealthy but solitary gentleman puts me in the mind of someone I knew, a boy named John, who went to school and came home a man barely recognizable to his family. His sister even asks:
“John,” she said, “Does it make every one – unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?”
He paused and smiled. “I am afraid it does,” he said.
“And, John, are you glad you studied?”
“Yes,” came the answer, slowly but positively. (Du Bois, p. 150)
“Like young Ebenezer,” Du Bois continued, “My friend John had been happy at one time in his life. Like Ebenezer, that was before he knew what was to come.”
“He could not remember that he used to have any difficulty in the past, when life was glad and gay. The world seemed smooth and easy then.” (Du Bois, p. 150)
“This part of the story touches me also, to know that at one time Ebenezer Scrooge was part of society, and to see when you tell us this, dear Charles (Dickens),” Durkheim gushes:
“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”
“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.
“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.” (Dickens)
“It shows that there is still a glimmer of hope for him,” Durkheim continued:
“Men cannot live without acknowledging, and consequently, making mutual sacrifices, without tying themselves to one another with strong, durable bonds.” (Durkheim, p. 113)
Weber interjects, “I am not yet convinced at this point. He is still looking at past relationships in terms of power. He relives a Christmas party and is struck by the power in the situation, not completely the joy of the moment. He is conflicted as to whether or not he has been manipulated when, Mr. Dickens, you tell us about his immediate thoughts:”
During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its head burnt very clear.
“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”
“Small!” echoed Scrooge.
The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said, “Why! Is it not! He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”
“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” (Dickens)
“The memory brings him joy but pause,” Weber continues:
“Quite generally, ‘mere economic’ power, and especially, ‘naked’ money power, is by no means a recognized basis of social honor, or prestige, may even be the basis of political or economic power and very frequently has been. (Weber, Class, Status, Party, p 180)
“He wants to work out if he has been given pleasure for allegiance, or for the sake of pleasure, or perhaps is it possible for desires of both ends to have been the reasoning of such a lavish party,” concludes Weber.
“Point taken,” says Marx, “But what strikes me most are his memories of his lost love, and how he let money come into his heart when you, Mr. Dickens, say in the words of Ebenezer and his love:”
“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”
“You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”
“What then?” he retorted. “Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.”
She shook her head.
“Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”
“I was a boy,” he said impatiently.
“Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you are,” she returned. “I am. That which promised happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it, and can release you.” (Dickens)
“My dear friend Engels has some knowledge of this matter of love, money, and class,” continued Marx. “He has in fact said to me:”
“According to bourgeois conceptions, matrimony was a contract, a legal affair, indeed the most important of all since it disposed of the body and mind of two persons for life….. Had not the two young people about to be paired the right to freely dispose of themselves, their bodies and its organs” (Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 749)
“Ahhh love”, says Dickens, “It is the best of times and the worst of times…” He faded off wistfully.
“Dickens!” exclaims Marx, “Keep it down or you’ll have Rousseau in here!”
To be continued next week. Y’all come back, you hear!
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.