This article argues that in the 1870s philosophical, economic, and literary ideas converged on a shared problematic: the perceived crisis of laissez-faire and the emergence of new arguments in favor of state intervention in the economy. George Eliot's last novel, Daniel Deronda (1876), offers a sophisticated intervention in these debates, and it is in dialogue with the thought of the Victorian political economist and moral philosopher Henry Sidgwick and his group. Eliot engages with the perceived break—diagnosed by Sidgwick and other political economists of the period—between self-interest and public interest and attempts to find a formal resolution for this problem. Her work constitutes a particularly significant response to the widely perceived late Victorian legitimation crisis of laissez-faire, and it can help us understand the broader discursive affinities between economic thinking and literary production in this period.

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