Written over 60 years ago, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman seems to be more relevant than ever. Miller’s prophetic play warned of a dystopia where men no longer profitable to the consumerist system were discarded. Today’s global predicament is not at all dissimilar – a society facing increasing economic difficulties caused and controlled by a rampant financial market.
Though not yet reaching the dizzying effects of 1929, marked similarities are apparent between the Great Depression and our current economic crises, namely the culpability of the Banking and Finance Sector. In 1929, some 9,000 banks alone in the US failed due to ‘over-indebtedness’ and a lax-credit system, fundamental failures mirrored half a century later. The Thatcher years of deregulation and laissez-faire laid the foundations of a completely independent financial sector but this trend was not reversed but accelerated under New Labour. It is neither radical nor novel to suggest that lack of control or stringent checks of any kind over the market and the continued domination of capitalist values, promoted by self-serving governments and companies alike, have allowed this situation to occur once again.
…the current UK government chooses to make cuts as murderously high as 40%
Where Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal, a policy that was designed to end the Great Depression in the United States, sought to expand public sector contribution, the current UK government chooses to make cuts as murderously high as 40%. Whilst public sector cuts are being made, the very banks that were central to both economic collapses continue to be propped up in both continents, thus buttressing the chaotic boom and bust cycles of the free market.
If the Great Depression, subsequent dips and recessions are to teach us anything then surely it is that democratically elected representatives of the people (what governments supposedly are) should be in control of the money supply. Relying on a market system that has no rules, or is somehow supposed to rule itself, simply presents ripe terrain for self-profiting organisations ready to take all in this ruthless market of survival.
…prioritizing wealth over life and ‘substance’
The truly astounding parallels between the causes of the 1929 Great Depression and that of our own time leads one to question why it is that man is unable to avoid previously made mistakes. Willy Loman, Miller’s tragic protagonist and victim to the ‘cut and thrust’ market, was a prime example of the way in which the modern world of business has lost its sense of value, prioritising wealth over life and ‘substance’. Miller’s solution to the problem was to remove himself from the clearly corrupted structures and the unrelenting grip held by the capitalist giants of the western world, choosing to live a more rural lifestyle in the woods of Connecticut.
Inverting the current system appears to be a distant dream, but in our immediate present lobbying for control of a thoroughly corrupt Banking Sector is the least we should aim for. Is it time to return to the forest like Arthur Miller once did or to reclaim the right to rule our own urban jungle?