Economics and aesthetics emerged in the mid-eighteenth century as scientific enterprises concerned fundamentally with questions of value. But whereas economics sought to jettison imaginary and subjective investments from its theory of value and to insist on principles of quantification (culminating in Karl Marx's famous critique of commodity fetishism), aesthetics founded its theory of value on the cornerstone of subjective and imaginative value attribution. This essay examines two German Romantic thinkers, the economist Johann Georg Schlosser and the writer E. T. A. Hoffmann, who turn to aesthetic idealism and a theory of productive imagination to heal this rift between economics and aesthetics. Both Schlosser's economic theories and Hoffmann's literary practice (as exemplified by his short story “Des Vetters Eckfenster” [“My Cousin's Corner Window”]) represent the view that economic and aesthetic values emerge at the intersection between the material attributes of the (economic or aesthetic) object and the imaginative fantasies projected onto it by prospective consumers.
Imaginary Value and the Value of the Imaginary: J. G. Schlosser, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and the Convergence of Aesthetics and Economics in German Romanticism
Richard T. Gray; Imaginary Value and the Value of the Imaginary: J. G. Schlosser, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and the Convergence of Aesthetics and Economics in German Romanticism. Modern Language Quarterly 1 September 2011; 72 (3): 369–397. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-1275172
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