Festschrift for Tadhg Foley
Edited By Maureen O'Connor
Nomadic Figures: The ‘Rhetorical Excess’ of Irishness in Political Economy David Lloyd 41
Nomadic Figures: The ‘Rhetorical Excess’ of Irishness in Political Economy1 David Lloyd In their masterful and indispensable study of political economy and its transformation in colonial Ireland, Thomas Boylan and Timothy Foley have documented English efforts throughout the nineteenth century to disseminate political economic doctrine as part of a project that was at once economic and political or governmental. Central to this project was the dissemination of popular political economic tracts such as that writ- ten by the Archbishop of Dublin, Robert Whateley, which sought to use the supposed science of economics to justify the reigning social order. But the drive was not merely to school the Irish: it was to produce a new kind of subject, ‘to change what was perceived as Irish “character”, to substitute ordered, rational discourse … for rhetorical excess, thereby promoting affection for England and the Established Church’.2 The characteristics of this new political economic subject can be fairly succinctly summarized. Critical was the capacity for sustained productive labour that the Irish were held to so singularly lack. This capacity turned on the emergence of the rationally self-interested individual whose choices and desires invisibly regulate both production and consumption. Such an individual is founded in the ethical virtues of autonomy and consistency: ‘he’ is not swayed by affect or by outside influences, but ‘gives the law to himself ’ and becomes, 1 For an earlier and very different version of this essay, see my ‘Mobile Figures’ Vectors: a Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic...
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