Markets in Everything: Dead and Live Souls

by on July 9, 2009 at 7:21 am in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

Wikipedia describes the history behind the plot of Gogol's Dead Souls:

The [Russian] government would tax the landowners on a regular basis, with the assessment based on how many serfs (or "souls") the landowner had on their records at the time of the collection. These records were determined by census, but censuses in this period were infrequent, far less so than the tax collection, so landowners would often find themselves in the position of paying taxes on serfs that were no longer living, yet were registered on the census to them, thus they were paying on "dead souls."

It is these dead souls, manifested as property, that Chichikov seeks to purchase from people in the villages he visits; he merely tells the prospective sellers that he has a use for them, and that the sellers would be better off anyway, since selling them would relieve the present owners of a needless tax burden…

Chichikov's macabre mission to acquire "dead souls" is actually just another complicated scheme to inflate his social standing (essentially a 19th century Russian version of the ever popular "get rich quick" scheme). He hopes to collect the legal ownership rights to dead serfs as a way of inflating his apparent wealth and power. Once he acquires enough dead souls, he will retire to a large farm and take out an enormous loan against them, finally acquiring the great wealth he desires.

All this leads Marina Gorbis guestblogging at Boing Boing to note

So every time I see another article or an ad about how to acquire more followers on twitter, friends on Facebook, or otherwise collect more "souls" for money, fame, or reputation, I start thinking about Chichikov. He did come to an ignominous end, finally fleeing town. Makes me wonder.

Kat July 9, 2009 at 9:50 am

Reminds me of this blog post by Eugene Kim, which criticizes another one of the same type of article: http://blueoxen.com/blog/2009/03/twitter-and-being-human/

Best sentence: “Good tools, when you let them, allow you to be more human, not less.”

farmer July 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm

i think the more interesting parralell is that facebook is just as incomplete, abrupt and pointless, but just as much fun

uggs January 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

I am apreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article

nike outlet January 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I am apreciating it very much!
Thank you for sharing.
I’ll be back.

cheap mbt shoes March 23, 2010 at 3:23 am

I loved the editorial BE.It is very interesting.Thank you for the information.

Jordan shoes April 13, 2010 at 10:26 pm

well ,it is a nice post . do you know Jordan shoesthe shoes which can make you more elegant and fashionable,ever moving you ?last week ,my friend give me a present which also let me happy ,as that also can change me ,to be more beautiful ,just Jordan shoes sneaker style my hair with it ,so nice .ok ,so i remembered many years ago i gotA title=”air jordan shoes” href=”http://www.jordan56.com/”>air jordan shoes,i am very miss it ,i will buy one more .A title=”nike air max” href=”http://www.jordan56.com/”>nike air max ,toning you muscles,make you have a better posture ,i think it is good for you to wear mbt shoes when you want to do some sports.

air jordan shoes April 19, 2010 at 5:56 am

Sport is the best way to keep you healthy, fit and fine. Nike Air Max 90 is one that gathers a lot of people, not only as fans that sit and watch others playing but also many who jump in the field and play. There is a long list of Jordan Shoes helping out an athlete to do their best with light in weight footwear without abrasive Nike Air Max 90.

coach bags April 19, 2010 at 5:58 am

Women love beauty. Women love Fashion. Coach Bags show a woman’s taste about Fashion. Almost all women can find themselves lusting over a beautiful purse now and again, and some women fixate on discount Coach Bags more than others. No matter whether you are flush with cash, or are trying to save some of your money, every woman should be able to buy herself a new handbag now and again. One way to be able to afford the handbags that you are lusting after is to look for the cheap Coach Bags.

sneaker wholesale August 14, 2010 at 5:37 am

The website give me some useful information, I like it very much and hope that it can be done better and better.

wholesale air force ones August 14, 2010 at 5:45 am

From this article, I got a revelation, I am very grateful I had such a good absorption of information.

Kelly September 8, 2010 at 6:08 am

The capitalism market is very hard to correlate with the concept of soul. If you want to work in capitalism, there is no room for soul, only for money and of course more money. easysaver

w.a. December 8, 2010 at 6:21 am

there are simply no souls

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: