Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




This investigation will consider the thesis that the fiction of Daniel Defoe contains definite indications that he idealizes communism in the sense that he seems to uphold a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. Previous criticism of the work of Defoe has considered the apparent dichotomy between his presentations of seemingly virtuous moralizing alongside mercenary capitalism. The critics of my acquaintance discuss these separately and are apparently unable to correlate Defoe’s morality with his economics, except, perhaps, as ironic device. Instead, this thesis will submit that Defoe’s moral and economic beliefs are at odds at all; rather they are growths of consistent thought based upon socio-economic classlessness. Chapter II will review the criticism pertinent to the topic under consideration. Chapter III will consider Defoe’s idea of economic classlessness in the Robinson Crusoe trilogy. Chapter IV will continue the analysis of Defoe’s theme of ideal economic classlessness by reference to Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, Moxana, and A Journal of the Plague Year. All these narratives definitely indicate that Defoe’s model society is classless. In this thesis certain words often recur which seem to have special meanings to Defoe. In order that the reader may more easily understand this study, these words will be defined in this section as Defoe seemed to define them in his fiction. Quite the contrary, Defoe saw that England was moving further and further away from a communal state. Defoe, therefore, preached against capitalism by writing stories about people who are caught in a society which has capitalistic classes at its foundation. His narratives often portray such people as Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack who are forced to steal in order to live because capitalism provides no useful place for them in its society. By “middle class” then, Defoe apparently means that class of people in England who heve enough money to live contentedly and who do not strive for more than is necessary for maintenance of self and family. Lastly, in this study, the terms “Capitalism” and “communism” are void of most of their twentieth century connotations. In this theses, then, the two words, “communism” and “capitalism”, only represent an emphasis upon the community at one pole and upon the individual at the other.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731
Communism and literature
Social classes


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University