I came across this quote of T.S. Eliot

There are a large number of people… who believe that all ills are fundamentally economic.

I’m craving to know Eliot’s view on it and for that I need to find the source and full quote.


1 Answer 1


The source of the quote is one of the last paragraphs in T. S. Eliot's essay "Religion & Literature", which was based on a lecture and published in the collection Essays Ancient and Modern in 1936. On the page preceding the quote, Eliot says that

[what he believes] to be incumbent upon all Christians is the duty of maintaining consciously certain standards and criteria of criticism over and above those applied by the rest of the world; and that by these criteria and standards everything else that we read must be tested.

However, most literature comes from people who are not Christians, so Christians need to remain "conscious of the gulf fixed between ourselves [i.e. Christian readers] and the greater part of contemporary literature" in order to be "protected from being harmed by it".

This then leads to the paragraph about the influence of economics (emphasis mine):

There are a very large number of people in the world to-day who believe that all ills are fundamentally economic. Some believe that various specific economic changes alone would be enough to set the world right; other demand more or less drastic changes in the social as well, changes chiefly of two opposed types. These changes demanded, and in some places carried out, are alike in one respect, that they hold the assumptions of what I call Secularism: they concern themselves only with changes of a temporal, material, and external nature; they concern themselves with morals only of a collective nature.

In the essay's final paragraph, Eliot rejects a morality that has no higher ideal than defining the relationship between the individual and the state or nation. Similarly, he objects to modern literature that "repudiates, or is wholly ignorant of, our most fundamental and important beliefs" and that encourages readers to focus narrowly on the here and now.

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