The rhetoric of business in Brecht's Dreigroschenroman

Schonfield, E. (2016) The rhetoric of business in Brecht's Dreigroschenroman. German Life and Letters, 69(2), pp. 173-191. (doi: 10.1111/glal.12113)

117343.pdf - Accepted Version



This article takes Walter Benjamin's interpretation of the Dreigroschenroman as a point of departure and conclusion. It develops Benjamin's idea that the novel shows how language is used to exert political and economic influence. This article reads the Dreigroschenroman as an insightful example of ‘Sprachkritik’. The business people in the novel use the rhetorical technique of paraphrase, thus drawing on Cicero's advice that the orator should exploit the ignorance of the audience. Whereas neoliberal free market rhetoric (following F. A. Hayek) tends to minimise the problem of monopoly formation, Brecht's novel explores the coercive character of the market and its reliance on the deception that a transaction is mutually beneficial. Macheath emerges as an expert salesman who uses populist marketing techniques in order to extract the maximum profit from his audience. The focus on material interests can be seen as antidote to business rhetoric. As with Marx and Engels, the fundamental question here is that of property. In this way, the novel exemplifies the Brechtian use of crude thinking (‘plumpes Denken’) in order to evade ideological manipulation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Schonfield, Dr Ernest
Authors: Schonfield, E.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > German
Journal Name:German Life and Letters
ISSN (Online):1468-0483
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
First Published:First published in German Life and Letters 69(2):173-191
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record