This edited collection, Political Economy, Literature & the Formation of Knowledge, aims to address the genealogy and formation of political economy as a knowledge project from 1720 to 1850. Through individual essays on both literary and political economic writers, this volume defines and analyses the formative moves, both epistemological and representational, which proved foundational to the emergence of political economy as a dominant discourse of modernity. The collection also explores political economy’s relation to other discourses and knowledge practices in this period; representation in and of political economy; abstraction and political economy; fictional mediations and interrogations of political economy; and political economy and its ‘others’, including political economy and affect, and political economy and the aesthetic.
Essays presented in this text are at once historical and conceptual in focus, and manifest literary critical disciplinary expertise whilst being of genuinely broad and interdisciplinary interest. Amongst the writers whose work is addressed are: Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, David Hume, Thomas Malthus, Jane Marcet, J. S. Mill, David Ricardo, and Adam Smith. The introduction, by the editors, sets up the conceptual, theoretical and analytical framework explored by each of the essays. The final essay and response bring the concerns of the volume up to date by engaging with current economic and financial realities, by, respectively, showing how an informed and critical history of political economy could transform current economic practices, and by exploring the abundance of recent conceptual art addressing representation and the unpresentable in economic practice.