The Realism of the Balance Sheet: Value Assessments between the Debtors Act and the Picture of Dorian Gray
2 Critical Analysis of Law 363, 2015
20 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2015
This essay examines English parliamentary debates about consumers’ financial means in the context of the 1869 Debtors Act, which oversaw working-class imprisonment for debt. Debates reveal a shift in the financial epistemology favored by participants, from a view of means based on what I term social credit, to a view of means based on a balance sheet paradigm. The rise and naturalization of the balance-sheet paradigm was both interrogated and challenged by one of the era’s most controversial texts, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I rely on the novel to examine the deep implications of the shift for the history of consumption, and to recall the drama it involved.
Keywords: Debtors Act; balance sheet; The Picture of Dorian Gray; consumption
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