Dennis Wrin Dr.
Heafner English 201 6 May 2013 Analysis of Economic Trends from Economy Henry David Thoreau, a notable transcendentalist author, is most remarked for his book Walden. This work serves as a memoir with the intentions of explaining why he chose to live in selective isolation for some time as an experiment. (Thoreau 1). During this time Thoreau was able to set himself back from the world, therefore clearing his mind and delving into issues concerning both the self and society. In his first chapter, “Economy,” Thoreau examines many ideas surrounding what could be considered the roots of modern materialism. Many personal possessions that originally arose with the purpose of serving a basic need have now become status symbols in our society. This claim can be supported by various social trends such as a change in the basic purpose of housing and clothing, as well as an increasing value placed on symbolic quality over utility. More so Thoreau goes on to explain how these trends are having a harmful effect on both individuals and the whole. While the ideas of housing and clothing arose to serve basic human needs, their functions in our society have altered greatly. As Thoreau states the “object of clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, in this state of society, to cover nakedness (Thoreau 4).” In this he reinforces that the original function surrounding the idea of clothing our bodies arose from the need to keep the body warm and in some societies to cover nakedness. This purpose has morphed into a need for one to "don garment after garment” as an attempt to form a “false skin,” likened by Thoreau to growing oneself like some “exogenous” plant (Thoreau 5). The claim is made that
” However he does call into consideration how “slight a shelter is absolutely necessary. As result an entire economic industry has manifested based solely on this. is clearly evident in the fashion industry. an almshouse. Shelter that meets the basic needs for survival becomes no longer sufficient and the home may become more like a museum for possessions. People use layers and variety of clothing to produce a type of new skin or image for themselves. Thoreau points out this changing trend in function of people's homes. This changing trend in function. People have lived long and healthy lives in harsher conditions with very minimal protection. There are some people however that support Thoreau's concept of simplicity.the function in society for clothing ourselves has changed. Housing too arose originally from a basic human need. He advises that when building a home a little “shrewdness” should be exercised to avoid confining oneself to “a workhouse. a labyrinth without a clue. the extent too how much is required however is debatable.” Thoreau believes that as people obtain more and more possessions they must construct larger and larger houses. Even Thoreau admits that shelter is a “necessary of life (Thoreau 6). or even a place to die.” and points out that in many instances people have “done without it for long periods in colder countries than this (Thoreau 6-7).” It is universally recognized that shelter is necessary for human survival. This trend has only continued to grow and become a pervasive part of our modern society's culture.700 a year on apparel and related products ("Spotlight on Statistics: Fashion").” Even further they support the claim the what people wear “often characterizes who they are and what they do.” These factors have caused the fashion industry to become a viable economic counterpart to our society with consumers spending on average $1. such as those self-identified members of
. Even the United States Department of labor calls fashion a concept that has “greatly influenced the fabric of societies all over the world. observed by Thoreau. a prison. or a splendid mausoleum instead (Thoreau 7). a museum.
So often in current society the possessions we buy and obtain are valued more for the symbols they represent. than for their actual utility. More so than public opinion though.” This method of scientific study accurately illustrates Thoreau's claim to the influential role of symbolic connotation. Symbols carry so much importance in modern society that sociologists have even developed an entire approach to studying society on a symbolic level.. unusual.” Most of these individuals have experienced the troubles of owning a large elaborate home and see the value of building small in lower purchase. with evidence by
. maintenance. the Symbolic-Interaction approach is defined as “a framework for building theory that sees society as the product of everyday interactions of individuals (Macionis 14). indicates his fate (Thoreau 2). to self or others.” identifies “self” as the “the biggest danger to our own safety and well-being.” The importance placed on symbolic reference allows these sociologists to analyze society as “nothing more than the reality people construct for themselves (Macionis 14).” Even further so he believes that “what a man thinks of himself. smaller than 100
(Kurutz ). and heating costs (Kurutz ).000 square feet and. we are subject to the influence of self. or associated status.” The developed opinion one has of themselves can greatly affect the outcome of situations in life. The article “A Danger to Ourselves. in some cases. This idea has been further studied and developed to result in truth.” This results in a society whose driving force for obtaining is influenced by traits like new.the “small house movement.” It has been expressed.. Thoreau claims that the “love of novelty” and “regard for the opinions of men” are most often the reasons for procuring an item rather than by “true utility (Thoreau 4). With its roots found in the ideas of Max Weber. The trend has become accepted to value these superficial qualities over actual practicality.” These radicals believe in minimizing one’s footprint by “living
in spaces that are smaller than 1. Thoreau calls ”public opinion [a] weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.
” On the contrary however. “almost all informed observers agree that financial crisis started in the housing market.” The reason he cites for this judgment is that these items “are more easily acquired than [gotten] rid of (Thoreau 1). most personal possessions are not actually owned. barns. One of the first “misfortunes” Thoreau describes is that of “young men [that] have inherited farms. and farming tools.writers from “varied fields of expertise. houses. but instead rented or financed. The consequence of buying elaborate and essentially unnecessary homes and possessions is that most often they are not actually owned but financed beyond a persons ability to afford. Despite varied claims to the cause of the economic collapse in 2008. This was ever apparent in the recent housing crisis that mutilated the country's economy. those that have less often own it “because it costs so little (Thoreau 7).” that our own thinking does us in more often than an external enemy ever could (Arbieri). Another harmful effect of these trends outlined in “Economy” is the conflicts that arise over the issue of actual possession. Due to the fact most people live beyond their means. cattle. This inheritance takes away the personal choice of what else that person may have wanted to do or where to live. Thoreau's argument is that in “modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter. This universal materialistic mindset that has been growing does have a negative and harmful effect on our society.” This began with banks lending too much money to “low-income people” that had a “slim chance of repaying (Henderson 85-90) . chances are they own it because they are more likely to live within their means. He considers those born with less to have more personal choice.” The point made is that although those with meager shelter have less.” While most people would view inheritance of a home or farm as a gift.” This is a clear example of how collectively people living
.” This clearly reinforces and builds upon Thoreau's early theory on the influence of self opinion. Thoreau's opinion is that of indenture.
beyond their means can have a major negative impact on our society.
. By placing himself in an isolated living environment Thoreau was able to see many social issues that were beginning to develop. are not only not indispensable. and not yet examined or studied in depth. essentially dispensable. Thoreau begins and ends the text of Economy with his belief that all of these materialistic concepts are. Thoreau was clearly a scholar before his own time. it is clear that they are meant to be applied to a broader spectrum. By analyzing his text it is almost possible to predict how these social trends will continue to develop. and many of the so-called comforts of life. This is just one example of Thoreau's philosophy manifesting in our everyday life. While many specific examples are given to help illustrate and reinforce his ideas. None of the fancy luxuries and comforts have done anything to improve the men that pursue them.)” The argument exists that while “civilization” seeks to constantly improve our houses. when it comes down to core survival. Even further he believes that this pervasive mindset is hindering the elevation of mankind. Thoreau truly believes that “most of the luxuries. but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind (Thoreau 3. it has not done near as much to “improve the men” that inhabit them (Thoreau 9).
storm. Bureau of Labor Statistics . 2013. Spotlight on Statistics: Fashion. Society: The Basics.bls. <http://web.com.com. Steven. 14.hgtc. Print.edu/>. Richard. United States Department of Labor. <http://www.ebscohost.ebscohost."New York Times." Policy Review 167 (2011): 8590.html?pagewanted=all>. Henry David. <http://web. "The Roots of the 2008 Economic Collapse.
. 1854. "A Danger to Ourselves. John. <http://www. 2013. 1-9. Pearson Education. Print. 6 May 2013.storm. page.Works Cited Arbieri.com/2008/09/11/garden/11tiny. 6 May 2013. Web. "The Next Little Thing?. Macionis . 5 May. 10 Sep 2008: n. Print. Inc.Walden. Thoreau . Henderson.2 (2013).edu:>.nytimes. "Economy"-. Web."Independent School 72. Web. 12th ed.Academic Search Premier .. Academic Search Premier.gov/spotlight/2012/fashion/>. Kurutz. 2012.hgtc. David.