Burke's outrage at the revolutionary insult dealt to Marie Antoinette is one of the better-known pieces of the British pamphlet war that erupted in the wake of the French Revolution. What is less well known today is that William Godwin's anarchist magnum opus, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793, 1796, 1798), was conceived as a direct answer to Burke and that it was generally considered the best of the many ripostes Burke's conservative manifesto attracted. While Godwin's antipathy to all government is common knowledge, much less attention has been paid to his economic thought. In engaging a series of generically diverse texts roughly contemporaneous with the third edition of Political Justice, this essay makes a case for Godwin's consistent and vehement objection to private property and economic inequality. Godwin's views on this topic are shown to emerge from his engagement with a variety of eighteenth-century discourses, all invested, in varying ways, in the age's dominant historiographical trope celebrating extant commercial society as the apogee of social development.

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