Interdisciplinary Contributions to Contemporary Cultural Debates
Tradition and the Multi-National Corporation: T.S. Eliot’s Europe
Tradition and the Multinational Corporation: T.S. Eliot’s Europe
Communication with the dead—that has to be learned.—Hannah Arendt, eulogy for Karl Jaspers
Though T.S. Eliot’s Europe is my destination, let the reader be warned that it will take me most of this chapter to get there. The story I want to tell begins in the America that Eliot left for good, for England, in 1914—or not exactly the one that he left, but the America of about a century before that. The particular line of resistance to the power of corporations that I’ll be trying to leverage today has its origin, I am somewhat embarrassed to say, in Thomas Jefferson, whom Eliot’s friend and co-conspirator Ezra Pound at one point compares not entirely unconvincingly to Benito Mussolini.1 Jefferson sees corporations as a kind of aristocracy. “I hope we shall … crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations,” he writes in a much-cited letter to George Logan.2 It’s a figure of speech we’re talking about here. Corporations are in fact at least as unlike an aristocracy as they are like one. But Jefferson hits on something real in this fancy that I want to try to develop a little.
If T.S. Eliot can help me in this, it is certainly not because he is any kind of enemy of aristocracy. On the contrary, he is as frank a friend as aristocracy could hope for in a democratic...
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