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Crushed by Mammon

This picture is a work of the 19th-century British painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts. Mammon — the power of money — crushes the life and spirit out of the young boy and girl.

by Stephen Shenfield

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1 min read

George Frederic Watts, Public domain, via Wikipedia .org

Some pictures are worth a thousand words.

This one was created in 1885 by the British symbolist painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts (1817—1904). The symbolists painted “ideas, not things.” 

The grim-faced heavy-set figure in golden raiment, sitting on his throne and crushing the life and spirit out of the young boy and girl, symbolizes Mammon. Mammon is a biblical term for the power of money and material wealth. Medieval writers envisioned Mammon as a demon. 

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I grew up in Muswell Hill, north London, and joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain at age 16. After studying mathematics and statistics, I worked as a government statistician in the 1970s before entering Soviet Studies at the University of Birmingham. I was active in the nuclear disarmament movement. In 1989 I moved with my family to Providence, Rhode Island, USA to take up a position on the faculty of Brown University, where I taught International Relations. After leaving Brown in 2000, I worked mainly as a translator from Russian. I rejoined the World Socialist Movement about 2005 and am currently general secretary of the World Socialist Party of the United States. I have written two books: The Nuclear Predicament: Explorations in Soviet Ideology (Routledge, 1987) and Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001) and more articles, papers, and book chapters that I care to recall.

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