Domesticity, objects and idleness: Mary Wollstonecraft and political economy

Packham, Catherine (2012) Domesticity, objects and idleness: Mary Wollstonecraft and political economy. Women's Writing, 19 (4). pp. 544-562. ISSN 0969-9082

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In 1792, the Analytical Review categorised Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a work of political economy: as a contribution to a discourse whose aims, methods and directions were much contested at the time. This paper argues that the preoccupation with the objects and “manners” of domesticity across Wollstonecraft's writings provide a means of exploring her engagement with what she welcomed as the emergent “science of politics and finance”. It shows how political economy itself “begins at home”, by theorising the drive to acquisition which structures the relations between people and the objects with which they surround themselves, at home and beyond. The attempt in Wollstonecraft's Vindication to challenge the construction of Woman as object, to rethink gender and object relations, and to theorise a domestic revolution, is thus deeply involved in the critique of the larger culture of property newly consolidated in Smithian political economy. Her Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, meanwhile, continues a preoccupation with modes and styles of domesticity, to find in taste—a principle potentially polished “at home”—a means of engaging political economy more fully.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Online First Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Catherine Packham
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2012 12:44
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:30
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