Abstract

Although Heartbreak House is not the first play that comes to mind when talking about Shaw’s economic criticism, one cannot fail to notice that beneath its multilayered symbolism, this play also tells the story of modern (finance) capitalism at a particular moment in history. Read intertextually with The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism and Sovietism (1928), expanded in 1937 to include Fascism, Heartbreak House reveals not only the pervasive, dehumanizing influence of finance capitalism on society and politics, but also its inherent contradictions, which require unpaid debt, fictitious capital, and profitable bankruptcies. In the play, Boss Mangan, a faceless technocrat who destroys competitors by speculation and ruthless business tactics, epitomizes the capitalist financier and the abstract (power behind him, i.e., the modern corporation). He is completely separated from the actual production process, which is run by a new managerial class, represented by Mazzini Dunn, who—ideologically blinded—believes to be in control. In the real (and figurative) explosion at the end of Heartbreak House, Shaw exposes the inherent contradictions and paradoxes of the modern capitalist system. Economically speaking, the blow up is a boon for the system: while the “two practical men of business” (Boss Mangan and his double, the Burglar) are killed, capitalism prevails.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1480
Print ISSN
0741-5842
Pages
pp. 142-163
Launched on MUSE
2016-05-25
Open Access
No
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