Years ago, I read London Fields by Martin Amis, and I recall being struck by how every transaction in the novel was corrupted- the street market was full of hustlers, the taxi driver ripped the main female character off I think, and the plumber was totally on the take. All of the manufactured goods in the novel were falling to pieces and everything ran late. I don’t remember much else about the novel, but I remember coming away with the impression that what it was essentially about was England, more specifically London, in the rubble of the empire.
The theme seemed to be that it was impossible to have an honest transaction, pound for pound, to get what one paid for in the London of that time.
I can’t help thinking about that now.
I know Amis’ father was Kingsley Amis, an early anti-Stalinist and one of the first classically defined “Neo-Conservatives,” (former Communist turned conservative) and that Martin volubly defends his father’s life and work in “Korba the Dread,” so I suspect that London Fields was never meant as a criticism of capitalism, but interestingly, to me it reads that way.
We learn from capitalism that we must hack out our own well-being, even if its out of the flesh of our neighbors. Now we have the lesson, but the rewards elude us like water rushing out to sea after the tide shifts. All we have left now is the hacking.