In Book 5 of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, Genius’s extended discussion of Covetousness demonstrates how this subtype of Avarice leads to the ruin of the networks of collectives that make up society. Interestingly, the process by which Covetousness damages the collectives that make up these networks looks a lot like the neoliberalism that has come to dominate a number of governments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Gower’s tales trace the spread of this sin from the top of society to the bottom; from the highly public to the intimately personal. In all scenarios, Covetousness is a force of destruction rather than one of good, altering and, in the end, ultimately destroying the social bonds that once existed between the actors involved. Using Actor-Network Theory, I argue that Gower presents his readers with the dire consequences of misunderstanding the structure of and collectives in society when Covetousness governs one’s actions - when the market overtakes the moral. The negative effects of Covetousness in the tales within this section of Book 5 reveal the dependence of each perpetrator of Covetousness on a collective of actors that includes material objects rather than monolithic social structures. Furthermore, Gower’s critique of Covetousness in showing us its dissolution of the bonds and relationships that make up society both foreshadows the rise and lasting negative impact of neoliberalism.
Stoyanoff, Jeffery G.
"Covetousness in Book 5 of Confessio Amantis: A Medieval Precursor to Neoliberalism,"
Accessus: Vol. 4
, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/accessus/vol4/iss2/2