A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (A Lively Learning by Shmoop

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Extra resources for A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (A Lively Learning Guide by Shmoop)

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As it functions in Smith’s text, the invisible hand metaphor represents an analogous reversal of cause and effect – or rather it represents the Smithian social order as an effect without a cause. That is, the desired effect – social and economic harmony – is produced by leaving things alone, by the refusal of government or any body representing the public interest to interfere with the economic transactions which will produce that harmony. The invisible hand both invites and defers the question of agency (who or what is responsible for the social order) by replacing it with the concept of ‘natural law’.

But as John Barrell has argued, the ideal of visibility, of viewing a whole landscape scene at once from a distant location, also implies a certain class position. Especially at the beginning of the century, gentlemen of landed property justified their political power as magistrates through their disinterested ability to view their whole society from a distance. Any ‘specific profession, trade, or occupation’, it was presumed, ‘might occlude [the gentleman’s] view of society as a whole’. 1 This paradox troubled Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations particularly in regards to the role of philosophy itself.

Indd 33 3/17/2011 10:25:00 AM 34 The ‘Invisible Hand’ and British Fiction, 1818–1860 with increasing proximity. But overlapping with this understanding of the limitations of individual perception is Smith’s assertion that there is also a point of view from which one can perceive the system (or the nation) as a whole. This perspective, characterized by the viewpoint of the sovereign (and available to the reader of Smith), reveals the general outlines of the system, though not its individual data points.

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