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This essay reappraises Defoe’s writings on economics to argue that the fascination of modern economists with Robinson Crusoe is either misplaced or ahistorical. Rather than an exemplary study of production and consumption, the novel is a one-off treatment of Crusoe’s debt – in the form of seeds, tools, and a rifle – to an absent, but paradoxically foundational, world of European trade. In his subsequent novels – The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and A New Voyage Round the World – Defoe abandons the idea of his heroes as economic lab rats and focuses instead on the fluid and uncertain world of international commerce. Despite the complexities of such trade, Defoe’s novels fictionalize a cultural belief that the unmapped spaces on the globe offer the prospect of what he calls ’infinite Advantage’: the belief that one can use resources indefinitely without using them up.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDaniel Defoe in Context
EditorsAlbert J. Rivero, George Justice
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108872140
ISBN (Print)9781108836715, 9781108799188
StatePublished - May 11 2023

Publication series

NameLiterature in Context


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