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Robinson Crusoe Individualism, Homo economicus, Post-colonial aspect

The themes are all connected to one another and almost conditionally intertwined in the work
itself.
Individualism and the phenomenon of homo economicus stand for the main characteristics of
the era in which Robinson Crusoe was created, or to be more precise these terms represent
the consequences of that transitional period. That's exactly why it is doubtful whether Defoe's
work could be considered actually the turning point, the first novel, etc.
Robinson Crusoe is very much a product of his age, the individualistic-minded eighteenth
century. The Economic Individualism in Robison Crusoe illustrates the attitudes of an
eighteenth century British citizen.
We can observe diverse elements of the individualism in Robinson Crusoe.
Robison Crusoe is an illustration of homo economicus, that is, economic man that
symbolizes the new outlook of individualism in its economic aspect.
One definiton of this phenomenon could be: Homo Economicus acts rational and in selfinterest manner, seeking to optimize his condition with the least possible cost given preceded
opportunities.
1. The accident that brought him to the island of Despair, as he calls it, happened while
Crusoe was travelling to his Brazilian plantation, and he regards the island primarily as a
property to be developed for his own use.
2. The influence of the Age of Reason that Crusoe embodies by being an ideal of a
practical man, as we can see in the passage: I had everything so ready at my hand that
it was a great pleasure to me to see all my goods in order, and especially to find my
stock of all necessaries so great.
1. Family, friends, social life - Ian Watt points out that:
The primacy of individual economic advantage has tended to diminish the
importance of personal as well as group relationships, and especially of those
based on sex; for sex, as Weber pointed out, being one of the strongest
potential menaces to the individuals rational pursuit of economic ends, and it
has therefore, as we all see, been placed under particularly strong controls in
the ideology of industrial capitalism.[1]
e.g.: only when his financial position has been fully secured does he marry.

Terry Eagleton: Defoes realism is a realism of things.


4. Also, Crusoes relationship with God. Although we can notice that there is much
genuine piety in the book, Crusoes attitude towards God often seems to be one of business
partnership, and his religious faith serves to confirm and strengthen his materialistic
individualism.

As the time passed by, Crusoe began to set his routine, that is, he organized himself
and established time to sleep, to work, to eat, and every else. This attitude shows that the
average individual economic life under division of labour as interesting of inspiring. Watt
explains that:
Defoe sets back the economic clock, and takes his hero to a primitive
environment, where labour can be presented as varied and inspiring, and
where is has the further significant difference from the pin-makers at home
that there is an absolute equivalence between individual effort and individual
reward.[5]
5. Robinson Friday relation. Friday was a savage and a captive of a group of cannibals.
Crusoe taught him English and his religious beliefs. In fact, Crusoes relationships
with Man Friday are similarly egocentric. He does not ask him his name, but give him
one, and, basically, their relationship is very much that of master and servant.
6.

He did not want to adapt himself to the wild environment. He tried to adapt the
environment to himself by reproducing everything according to the social and
economic organization of the place that he used to live.
To conclude, the elements of the individualism that Defoe represents in Robinson
Crusoe show exactly the kind of attitudes which were eventually to make Britain the
richest country in the world and lead it to establish a vast empire, and illustrates the
attitudes of an eighteenth century British citizen. Robinson Crusoe is, in fact, the first
significant example in English literature of the economic-individualistic hero.

In many ways Robinson Crusoe can be regarded as a work of a defining modern citizen in
capitalist society. As economic man, Crusoe has been specifically identified with capitalism,
particularly by Marxist critics. His solitary state on the island, his limited relationships with
others, including his own family, and the insignificance of sex/women reflect the nature of
capitalism, which emphasizes individual self-interest. Because of the primacy of the
individual, capitalism tended to diminish the importance of personal as well as group
relationships. Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe is the prototype and the pioneer of the
phenomenon called homo-economicus.
Robinson Crusoe represents indeed the true example of a colonial era, embodiment of all the
ideals. So the post-colonial refers actually to the critics that commented this era and its
woes. Today, we judge the evils of colonization using this post-colonial criticism, and one
of the examples of usual colonial evils would be the relation Robinson-Friday. The main
aspects that follow this ideology are also Protestantism and imperialism. All of this can be
seen through Crusoes attitude towards the island he immediately claims It for himself and
decides to use it for his own prosperity. The same he did with Friday whom he taught English
language and culture, which were, along with religion, the usual means of manipulating the
colonized people to serve for others interests. Actually, the first word Cruose taught Friday
was master and without asking anything about his culture, imposed him his culture and
subordinates him making their relation truly one of a master and a servant. All these elements
make a part of the entire post-colonial aspect.