The Drama of Reason
Chapter 5: Ezra Pound and Diagnosis
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Ezra Pound and Diagnosis
In 2009 Hill said in interview
Until very recently I thought that I had invented the term plutocratic anarchy, but it appears to have originated with William Morris. A few days ago I happened upon the text of a lecture delivered at University College, Oxford in 1883 (‘John Ruskin in the Chair’). Morris’s term, to be precise, is ‘anarchical Plutocracy’. Anarchical Plutocracy destroys memory and dissipates attention; it is the enemy of everything that is summoned before us in Bishop Butler’s great pronouncement of 1729; ‘Everything is what it is, and not another thing’.1
This position is remarkably similar to Ezra Pound’s in the thirties. Writing in 1931, Pound declared:
Plutocracy does not favour the arts. […] Plutocracy hovering above demos favours the second rate. Whatever the ‘general terminology’, of foundations, endowments etc., the whole drift of plutocratic kultur is toward devitalization of letters and scholarship.2
While he does not use the term ‘anarchy’, there are nonetheless parallels between the Pound of 1931 and the Hill of 2009. For a start, both shy away from the noun ‘capitalism’, preferring the older term ‘plutocracy’, seeking perhaps to establish a broader historical scope for their ‘diagnoses’, and perhaps also supposing the past to contain inherently redemptive qualities, though neither would admit to it. Both view ‘plutocracy’ (one of Pound’s many words – including ‘usury’ – for the appropriation of the machinery ← 127 | 128...
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