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Deirdre N. McCloskey

Subtitle: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2007, 616 pgs., index, works cited, notes, paperback


Reviewer Comment:
This is the first book of a trilogy listed here.
General comments: Dr. McCloskey has two broad schools of thought to counter. Thus, it is about ideas (beliefs) , the power of ideas to generate action. And the fundamental foundation lies in ideas about ethics - described as 'virtues'. The 'event', actually process, that took place begining in Northern Europe and resulted in the amazing, unprecedented explosion in human standard of living cannot be denied. Instead its detractors try to denounce it by attacking either the causes or the results. I have an expanded review and general comment on the three volumes here.

Typical Causes
1. It was an accident, it was caused by geographical advantage, it was caused by special institutional developments, it was based on adapting prior Asian advances, it was caused by European conquest and exploitation of others. Or, it was the final result of an unique Civilization that started in classical Greece and was then advanced by Christian thought processes.

OR typical Results
2. The results have been disastrous for humanity, exploitation of workers, destruction of culture and artistic values, exploitation of peoples outside Europe, greed, financial volatility and exploitation, and other disruptions of family life and societies.
Dr. McCloskey's thesis is that the economic change was due to a change in ideas, ideas about the personal value and dignity of the 'bourgeois' (middle class) and especially of their activities in commerce, and production; and also ideas about individual liberty. For a relatively brief period these ideas were shared and advanced by the intelligentsia. We well know that both classical Greece and Rome and the medieval Christian West denigrated merchants and 'money making'. This attitude was especially prevalent among the wealthy, the intelligentsia, and even the Christian clergy. A change in thought by intellectual leaders took place in the century prior to the French Revolution as they witnessed the beginnings of the bourgeois led economic expansion and recognized this would help them overthrow the ancient regime establishment, hence was a good thing. But soon after the next revolutions of 1848 the intelligentsia turned 'traitor' as Dr. McCloskey terms it and began the assault on what they now termed 'capitalism'. The assault continues today.

This book is dense in its citations of multitudes of philosophers, economists, historians and literary authors from Plato and Aristotle to today. Musicians and artists are frequently mentioned as well. She addresses current colleagues directly by name indicating when they are right or wrong.

For the non-professional economist reader this sometimes becomes 'overkill and unduly lengthy. But Dr. McCloskey believes that she must argue and try to convince her fellow economists of their errors. We can appreciate this effort because, indeed, the world is controlled now by the misguided economic theories that support detrimental political policies and action. For this reviewer, who held the same beliefs as Dr. McCloskey prior to reading her books, much of the extensive argument seems superfluous. But it is still interesting to learn more about the names and views of many authors in addition to the famous leaders. One can read this also in the context of world history as an example of the role of the intelligentsia in creating popular beliefs that either support or undermine the contemporary political establishment.

The reason this book is about ethics is because the author has identified the fundamental source of the errors of contemporary economists is their belief in materialism, and utilitarianism. The result has been the elimination of all the virtues that historically have determined ethics except for one - prudence. She has set about reinstating the other six.

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Volume II - Bourgeois Dignity

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Volume III - Bourgeois Equality

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Muller, Jerry - The Mind and the Market- The author provides biographies and analysis of their theories about capitalism for 16 major intellectuals who were significant commentators on the revolution that Dr. McCloskey describes. He includes those before and after, and for an against. In some chapters he devotes more space and analysis to the contemporary social and cultural environment that he believes shaped the author's theories. Of great interest is that he reveals a strong correlation between anti-Jewish and anti-capitalism in these authors. His representative authors confirm Dr. McCloskey's point that since about 1840's there has been a strong movement of the intelligentsia to denounce and oppose what they call 'capitalism'.

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Trentmann, Frank - Empire of Things - The author provides a description of the huge amount of material goods and services that has resulted from the bourgeois revolution in thought that created the expansion of economic well- being that Dr. McCloskey describes. One has to wonder 'which came first' - the changes in beliefs and actions of the bourgeois that enabled huge increases in physical goods - or that an observation that such material goods were now accumulating supported the new beliefs in the possibility of 'betterment' as Dr. McCloskey terms it.

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Kwartgung, Kwasi - War and Gold: A 500-year history of Empires, Adventures, and Debt An excellent study. For purposes of relationship to D. McCloskey's books this author's descxription of the role of money, that is credit and debt, from 1600 to 1800 is essential. Her descriptions of what took place during those centuries is missing much important analysis of the bourgeois participation in this economic activity The new mode for providing capital was very significant.

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von Mises, Ludwig - Human Action

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von Mises, Ludwig - Socialism

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von Mises, Ludwig - Theory and History


Preface -
Dr. McCloskey presents an autobiographical account of her education and gradual conversion from establishment Keynesian economics to the position she presents in these three volumes.


Apology -
1. Exordium: The Good Bourgeois - The author explains that she does not mean 'apology' in the typical current concept of being 'sorry', but rather in the ancient Greek concept of the defense side in a trial, that is giving reasons to persuade listeners. Thus the organization into proofs and a refutation and summary. The bourgeois need no defense, yet she understands that current establishment thought needs to be persuaded that it is wrong. She maintains that 'capitalism' is good for having accomplished the vast improvement in Everyone's lives. Capitalism can be virtuous - In fact it promotes the virtues. The adverse ideas and actions commonly ascribed to capitalism such as 'greed' miserliness, 'self-interest' were common during the centuries prior to 1800 and still are common, having nothing to do with capitalism itself. She writes that her intended audience is the current theoreticians who do not believe this. But their views are from uncritical habit. The 'treason' of the intelligentsia circa mid-19th century is now so embedded, that its concept of capitalism, merchants, bourgeois middle class, markets and all forms the accepted orthodox view. And this is so for both the political left and right, even though they start from very different view points. She writes: "I suggest gently to such people, my good friends of the clerisy left, center, and right who believe bourgeoise life must be unethical, that they might possibly be making a mistake when they attribute amorality to markets." Both sides have been educated into believing Prudence is the only relevant virtue but take opposing positions on the outcome. Thus this book devoted to study of the entire history of Western Ethics.

II. Narratio: How Ethics Fell - In this section the author briefly describes how the 7 virtues - 4 'pagan' (meaning classical) and 3 Christian - were pushed out so that only Prudence remained, from the Renaissance era to early 19th century. She writes that the mind of Europe changed between 1755 and 1848. She continues: "yet after 1848 or a little before, the European clerisy formed up into anti-bourgeois gaggles of bohemians and turned to complaining about the bourgeois virtues that had nourished them." And more: "The left side of the clerisy has never wavered in its 150-year campaign against the system that has made its arts and sciences possible."

III. Probatio A: Modern Capitalism Makes Us Richer: We know this, but critics claim otherwise. She writes: "Most of what we are taught in school about the economy of traditional Europe turns out to be wrong, because it is inspired by the earlier, anticapitalist tale.." She is right, it takes a lot of study of more recent scholarship to learn this. She cites author after author and book after book while proving them wrong.
IV. Probatio B: And Lets Us Live Longer: Again this is obvious, but the author provides stunning statistical data showing just how much longer people live now.

V. Probato C: And Improves Our Ethics: Now we come to a central issue in dispute. She is up to the task, again citing multiple authors who claim otherwise. She writes: "The claim on the left, in short, is that regardless of the individual capitalist's virtue or vice the system of capitalism leads to evil. The claim is mistaken."

VI. Refutatio: Anticapitalism Is Bad for Us: Here the argument shifts more into basic economics. She refutes the common 'doomsday' mantra that the world is running out of resources. In fact, she argues, natural resources comprise a smaller component of economies that ever before. She disputes Henry George and David Ricardo. She cites many specific cases in which a country with large quantities of 'valuable' natural resources are nevertheless poor. But what IS in short supply is human freedom - the essential resources for continual expansion of human well-being. She writes: "The ongoing danger to freedom, in other words, is from the powers of the modern state." Amen, Amen. This is a lengthy section, as the author demolishes progressive arguments.

VII. Peroratio: A concluding statement of the expected results of success in the argument. She writes: "If we will let people own things - their houses and businesses, for example, their labor power - and if we let them try to make profit out of the ownership, and if we keep out of people's lives the tentacles of a government acting as an executive committee of the country club or worse, we will prosper materially and spiritually."


- This section begins with extensive quotations from philosophers from Plato on. Then the author lays out her plan for a four- volume exposition of her thought. It is all about her desire to refute the orthodox theories of the intelligentsia (clerisy). She recognizes that this will be a monumental effort requiring her to marshal evidence and theory. She will have to resort to history, economics, philosophy, psychology, literature. As it turned out over subsequent years the four-volume plan was changed into a three-volume whole containing mostly the original content, but organized differently.

She understands that the fundamental issue is the understanding of what 'virtue' actually means and includes. Hence her first task is to describe the history in European thought of the concept of 'virtue'. Her subsequent task, then, is to describe how changes in the concept related to the freeing of the bourgeois from medieval constraints and led to increasingly widespread belief in the 'dignity' and equality of the bourgeois - that is the merchants and entrepreneurs and inventors - in an increasingly commercial society.


Chapter 1 - The Very Word "Virtue"
This involves definitions not only of 'virtue' but also 'ethics' and 'morality'. The chapter is an excellent dissertation on the history of Western thought about 'virtues'. She writes: "The virtues came to be gathered by the Greeks, the Romans, the Stoics, the church, Adam Smith, and recent 'virtue ethicists' into a coherent ethical framework. Until the framework some what mysteriously fell out of favor among theorists in the late eighteenth century, most Westerners did not think in Platonic terms of the ONE Good - to be summarized, say, as maximum utility, or as the categorical imperative, or as the Idea of the Good. They thought in Aristotelian terms of many virtues plural." The Seven Virtues are Hope, Faith, Love, Justice, Courage, Temperance, and Prudence.


Chapter 2 - The Very Word "Bourgeois"
In defining 'bourgeois' the author describes its current name 'middle class' as divided into three levels - the 'upper middle class' is the class of the big bosses, owners of large factories, corporate directors, bankers, and such. In Europe, she notes, they run the cities, still. "In the seventeenth century some 2,000 bourgeois ran the Dutch Republic." In the United States there never was an 'aristocracy' in the European form, but some of the upper middle class sometimes are termed 'aristocrat'.

The second part of the 'middle class' - bourgeoise - is the 'clerisy' what I call intelligentsia - the self-proclaimed thought leaders - now sometimes termed 'highbrows', 'eggheads', 'chattering class.'

'The third part of the middle class is the petite bourgeoisie, the lower middle class,' the owner of the corner grocery store, lower managers, farmers, clerks. The author provides extensive citations to numerous books on this subject. And she describes much of the typical daily activities of these groups.


Chapter 3 - On Not Being Spooked by the Word "Bourgeois"
This brief chapter is about the popular connotations of the word, bourgeois. She quotes historians including Johnan Huizinga who wrote, "in the nineteenth century, 'bourgeois ' became the most pejorative term of all, particularly in the mouths of socialists and artists. and even later of fascists.' Further, "But the trouble is that 'bourgeois' is used by the left to evoke the alleged ethical bankruptcy of the middle class.'. She describes at length Simon Schama's book, 'The Embarrassment of Riches' in which he wants to show the high quality of the Dutch by eliminating the concept that they embodied all the false, disparaging meanings of the word, bourgeois. She concludes, "I hope to make 'bourgeois' a geuzennaam, to remake a word of contempt into a word of honor."


Part 1 - The Christian and Feminine Virtues: Love


Chapter 4 - The First Virtue: Love Profane and Sacred
This is a central virtue in the three sacred list with faith and hope. The author begins with, "Love can be thought of as a commitment of the will to the true good of another," And, "Love is identified conventionally with the 'feminine,' which would not have recommended it to Nietzsche or to Aristotle. Of the seven virtues - courage, temperance, justice, prudence, faith, hope, and love - courage is, I repeat, stereotypical male, love stereotypical female." "The gendering of the virtues makes even Christian males a little nervous. It has troubled Christian ethics since the beginning." Medieval Christian philosophers equated divine love with charity as one of the three virtues. There is much more in this chapter.


Chapter 5 - Love and the Transcendent
The discussion continues. Here the author contrasts the original, transcendent, meaning of love with its change with the ascendancy of secular materialism. She discusses the continuing tension between two concepts. As usual, she invokes numerous philosophers who held or hold conflicting views.


Chapter 6 - Sweet Love vs. Interest
Here we get into the relevance of discussing 'love' with contemporary economics. It is one of the key 'virtues' that have been abandoned, thus distorting economic theory. She writes, "So-called Samuelsonian economics is the main sort at American universities today. The only way it can acknowledge love is to reduce it to food for the implicitly male and proud lover, on a par with the other 'goods' he consumes, such as ice cream or apartment space or amusing gadgets from Brookstone."

(Samuelson was the leading academic purveyor of Keynesian economic theory post World War II, I, as others, was given his text for economics class. It is entirely materialistic, secular, the promoter of 'economic man' as the utilitarian realist whose only motive is economic - maximizing gain. For them if 'love' must be considered, it is only as a utility function. )

After discussing a mother's love, Dr. McCloskey according to utilitarian economists, she writes; "Economists think this is a complete description of your mother's love. Hallmark could make a card for the economist to send to his mother: "Mom, I maximize our utility". Typical author's sarcasm. She quotes various friends. She then continues, "The economist's theory is not complete. For one thing, the behaviorism and positivism that often go along with utilitarianism are an unnecessary narrowing of the scientific evidence." This is a key chapter in which there is much more exposition of current economic theories with refutation for lack of consideration of the virtues other than prudence.

Unfortunately, indeed, Samuelson was the economics text in my course in 1954 and I didn't know better. I still have it and now know much better.


Chapter 7 - Bourgeois Economists against Love
Still more, the author reveals the core problem. "Ah, yes. Bourgeois virtues. Remember them? At this juncture the male, prudent, scientific, economistic, and materialist stoic breaks into indignant rhetorical questions. 'Who cares about sweetness?" .... What possibly could love have to do with the hard world of commercial economy?" And more, "Economics since its invention as a system of thought in the eighteenth century has tried to 'economize on love; that is, to get along without it, that is, to justify shopkeepers far removed from saintly or poetic love." She elaborates on the dominance - really the monopoly - of prudence as the only virtue of which an economist is cognizant. She returns to Adam Smith, pointing out that he was a professor of moral philosophy. But was his followers who believed in profane Prudence under the title of 'utility'. She comments, "But their confused advocacy of Prudence Only has been a catastrophe for the science that Adam Smith inaugurated." Many examples of this follow.


Chapter 8 - Love and the Bourgeois
Dr. McCloskey begins with, "Love figures in any human group, even a capitalist group, under standing 'love' in an expanded sense to include more than Aristotle's lower friendships for pleasure and profit. We do not have to be Hobbesians or utilitarians and reduce 'love' to self-interest." Here she invokes John Nash and game theory and its limitations in the real world; even the world of Monopoly game. Even in chess there must be rules 'outside' the game itself.

Here is another typical comment; "Experimental economists are, with economic historians, among the minority of reliable scientific economists - the others tend on their bad days to wander off into meaningless speculation and arbitrary tests of 'significance' and they have a lot of bad days." (See why I love this book so much.)

She follows with an enjoyable and lengthy discussion of 'trust' and 'character' as basic criteria in real world commercial activities; in other words, 'virtues' other than prudence. The chapter continues with more examples of the actual importance of virtues (especially love) other than prudence in real commerce.


Chapter 9 -Solidarity Regained
In this chapter Dr. McCloskey gets indignant - really on the offensive. Her target, the modern, current opponents of the bourgeois and capitalism who denounce both on cultural grounds. These are the 'holier than thou' types who sneer at modern life, especially in this chapter on grounds of 'lost solidarity'. We meet several of them and their sources in Jerry Muller's book. And he provides the real clue on which Dr. McCloskey's argument is seen. The fundamental basis that people like Philip Selznick, her example target, (another is Robert Bellah) claim is that pre-capitalist society had a valuable 'solidarity' that capitalism has destroyed. They think that medieval village society was wonderful. Today, they base their authority on 19th century anti-capitalists such as Durkheim, Weber, Marx and Tonnies without so much as questioning those 'authorities' for evidence. Our author claims that the Selznicks of today are wrong and so were their 'authorities'.
Dr. McCloskey reserves more criticism for Karl Polyani in her volume 3. He is an example of this modern author.

Dr. Muller shows that this mystical view was generated by Germans in the Romantic period who opposed French Enlightenment thought. And even more, as Dr. Muller shows in his chapter on Justus Moser (1720 - 1794) whose critique of early capitalistic market economic development was based on his defense of medieval institutions in which he personally profited. Muller writes, "The political and economic institutions of Osnabruck, that Moser defended in his writings were medieval in origin and feudal in conception, the remnants of a world in which property, power, and honor wee indissolubly linked."

Well, Dr. McCloskey does not have to expound on the total picture, but the entire conception of medieval and pre-capitalist Europe has changed in the last generation. But she is correct in summarizing the ideas in this comment. "Love, in short is arguably thicker on the ground in the modern, Western, capitalist world. She also gets this right, "Intellectually speaking the claim of 'fragmented,' I say, descends from German suspicion of French Enlightenment, which around 1800 emerged as Romance, and later in the Century was intellectualized as the particularly German theme in professional folklore, history, anthropology, theology, and at last sociology." Plus, I mention economics. She lists some of the main perpetrators - Marx, Weber, Mannheim, Heidegger, Polanyi, Hauser, Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer. She later mentions Georg Lukacs, another of Muller's authors.

I might also trace this German view to Jena -1807.

Again, "I suggest that German Romanticism was the detour. German Romanticism still seems attractive to many, against the Scottish and liberal idea of letting people alone in their marketplaces to fashion a varied culture."

She rebukes at length an outfit of intelligentsia who conducted a 'survey' called Habits of the Heart and then disparaged their interviewees for lack of ability to articulate what their specific 'values' are. She comments, "only a group of intellectuals would regard as a grave problem such a failure to articulate." She continues with worse evaluation.


Part 2 - The Christian and Feminine Virtues: Faith and Hope


Chapter 10 - Faith as Identity
The author explains the place of faith and home in the several different classifications of seven virtues. Faith and hope are the other two transcendent virtues. "They have God not only for their end, but for their object." From Aquinas. Faith is an essential virtue the underlies science. She quotes Thomas Merton, "Faith is first of all an intellectual assent. But the assent of faith is not based on the intrinsic evidence of a visible object...." She continues, "The faith, in other words, need not be faith on God. Many secular folk believe in a transcendental without God, though approaching him." "But why then is faith a virtue?" "Because, C. S. Lewis explains, faith is a kind of spiritual courage, a willed steadfastness against the times when 'a mere mood rises up against it'". "Faith is a backward looking virtue. " "Premoderns had to keep faith with God and with their lords temporal. Late moderns keep faith with the market and with their friends." Faith, then, amounts to 'trust'.


Chapter 11 - Hope and Its Banishment
Dr. McCloskey writes, "Hope is, by contract with faith, forward-looking, the virtue of the energetic saint or entrepreneur who seeks' a future, difficult, but attainable good," "Christian doctrine and so-called 'Austrian ' economics agree in stressing that hope is about that ever-unseen future." But Samuelsonian economics dismisses hope by believing that we already do have the information to make accurate judgements about the future.

"Religious versions of faith and hope and love have been banished from the list of virtues in the West twice, during two waves of anti-Christian revision." "The first banishment happened among the clerisy of Europe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Dr. McCloskey discusses by name the leaders of this movement. The second banishment of religious faith and hope gathers force among secularizing intellectuals around the middle of the nineteenth century. This is ascribed to a late appreciation of Hume and Gibbon. The author quotes various poets who described this second development. She cites also Keynes, Schumpeter and Wilson who noted the end of Christian belief as motivation of the English intelligentsia.


Chapter 12 - Against the Sacred
Dr. McCloskey opens with, "In their official Christian vestments, that is, hope and faith were often unwelcome after 1848 in the salons and ateliers of European and especially Continental sophisticates." She cites modern philosophers who omit both from descriptions of virtues.


Chapter 13 - Van Gogh and the Transcendent Profane
According to Dr. McCloskey, Van Gogh is the poster boy of the 'mad artist' myth. She thoroughly debunks the myth while observing that it is a typical example of the intelligentsia making of his type a hero. She contrasts this with the disdain and disparagement the intelligentsia has for Normal Rockwell, 'The most despised artist of modern times.' She identifies this, "What outrages the clerisy in Rockwell is his embrace of bourgeois American life - that and his commercial success and his long, sober, boring life: he is the opposite of van Gogh in every way except his sentimentality and his bourgeois values and his lack of esteem among his high-art contemporaries."


Chapter 14 - Humility and Truth
Dr. McCloskey begins with discussion of a quotation from Aquinas. Then posits that; "Humility is part of the cardinal virtue of Temperance, which in turn is the internal balance essential for a good life ."The author identifies lack of humility as a contributor to the refusal of the intelligentsia, and specifically the econometricians to listen to alternative proponents of alternate economic theories. As usual, she cites and quotes from a huge variety of authors. A few thoughts: "True humility is not undignified," "True humility on the contrary is democratic, looking for the best in people, and often finding it." "To be humble in this sense, from the Christian and doubtless other perspectives, is merely to have a decent respect to the opinions of humankind, because other men and women sometimes reveal God's Own Truth." "As among the contending schools of economic science there is one which does at least theoretically recommend humility, listening, really listening......" Austrian economists are the free-market followers of the literal, ethic Austrians; Menger, Mises and Hayek." "They have now for about a century been explaining to us other economists that the economic scientist cannot expect to out guess the business person."
There is much more in this chapter.


Chapter 15 - Economic Theology
"The only ethical judgment an economist is supposed to be able to make is a wholly uncontroversial one. If every person is made better off by some change, the change - which is then called "Pareto optimal," after the Italian economist who formalized the notion - should take place." "Even philosophers like John Rawls and Robert Nozick have adopted this bland criterion. They have tried and tried to pull a decently detailed ethical theory out of a Paretian hat." (Rawls and Nozick are noted as staunch philosophical opponent, hence the choice.)

After further dismissal of contemporary economists, we read the following. "Truth be known, this 'welfare economics' and what passes for 'ethical' theorizing among economists and economists-loving philosophers is a Victorian, utilitarian parrot, stuffed and mounted and fitted with marble eyes." Dr. McCloskey cites and discusses Robert Nelson's efforts in which he considers economics as a religion. After more mention of the parrot, she continues; "Economics and theology are usually believed to be opposites. According to Nelson, who leans against a presumption since Goethe and Coleridge, they are not." "Economics, he argues, has become the theology of a new religion of abundance."
Wonderful - After reading Lawrence White's The Clash of Economic Ideas I recognized that what I was reading is a modern theological disputation like that between the Franciscans and Dominicans at Universities of Paris and Cambridge in the 1200's.

The author continues, "Nelson detects two theological traditions, which he calls the Roman and the Protestant. .. The issue between the two schools, the optimistic Romans and the pessimistic Protestants, has always been the perfectibility of humankind." Again, there is more here.


Part 3 - The Pagan and Masculine Virtues: Courage, with Temperance


Chapter 16 - The Good of Courage
Dr. McCloskey writes, "I am preaching as everyone should, in favor of 'virtue'. I commend it to you." But she notes the term has problems. To explain this she goes back to Roman concepts of 'virtue'. She continues with Machiavelli, There is much discussion about what Machiavelli meant by his use of 'virtu'. She also discusses German tribal and Homeric Greek concepts of courage. Courage is much admired in myths. But in ancient Greek city-states temperance gained place over courage. She devotes considerable space and attention to historical description of classical Greek and Roman warfare and the accompanying changes in the need for courage in battle. The discussion continues to today. "Modern armies in democracies therefore sometimes look like corporations - prudent rather than courageous." She pays attention to the Dutch unit that failed at Srebrenica, exhibiting prudence over courage. And the majority of Dutch public opinion and their historian report writers since then believe that prudence was the correct response. She continues with a jump to the study of Sun Tzu by business people today - again advocacy of prudence over courage.


Chapter 17 - Anachronistic Courage in the Bourgeoisie
Dr. McCloskey writes, "When the old tales of Western courage got written down, their values were already antique." And, "The accounts of it that throng our Western culture are phony from the start." She claims this due to Homer and Virgil writing long after the time involved and tales of King Arthur also being myths. Icelandic sagas also were not contemporary. Furthermore, the values promoted in these myths are aristocratic, for their audiences. Aristocrats have long since ceased to govern or die in battle. She gives as her 'main concern' that we are thinking of a form of morality made for a different time and society. We should acknowledge that we are not aristocrats when it comes to the concept of courage now. She explains, "That is, the word and ideology of courage has been corrupted. Bourgeois men have adopted instead the mythical histories of knights and cowboys as their definition of masculinity." She cites Jane Austin for description of the Royal Navy. And also notes that the Royal Army of Duke of Wellington also remained a bastion of Aristocratic myth. Again she writes, "The point is that bourgeois men still take their models from aristocratic warriors, or cricket teams." Heroes of American Western fiction, even cowboys, likewise are depicted as exemplars of old-time courage. She cites the statistics for actual violence in frontier 'cow towns' (very low) and notes that disarmament in town was the actual norm. From 'dime novels' to recent Westerner movies the plots are fiction. She claims that duels also were rare, otherwise the men would have killed each other off. Its purpose is all escapist.

As a witness to many military friends and others, I have to disagree with the author's view of courage.


Chapter 18 - Taciturn Courage against the "Feminine"
Here she discusses with various other authors the speechifying or not of courageous heroes in myth and literature. Mozart's hero, Tamino, is taciturn while his 'sidekick, Papagenro is talkative. Likewise, Shane, thinks of ancient Romans being taciturn. From this general introduction the author shifts to description of masculine versus feminine - The females are always too talkative and still say little of value. Talkative males are conflicted.


Chapter 19 - Bourgeois vs. Queer
This continues the literary based discussion on masculinity related to courage. The author begins, "In almost no American movie before the 1960's does a man fail to use violence on a woman."

I am not about to look for evidence, but as a viewer of such movies for many years (being now 83) I consider this rather exaggerated.

Moreover, "All the more did they authorize themselves to master and manhandle apparently 'feminine' men."

I didn't notice, but then I am not as personally interested in trying to find such examples.

The chapter is an attack on 'modern homophobia' and among the many literary icons she cites the reader notices the absence of Dante. But there is nothing in the chapter about economics or even about the 'virtues'.


Chapter 20 - Balancing Courage
The focus on literary examples continues. Dr. McCloskey is back to description of economics - views of capitalism - dismissing the anti-capitalist expressions in much popular writing. So much of it ascribes every failing of mankind to the advent of 'capitalism'.

Dr. McCloskey's rejoinder, - "One would like to know the society of men, capitalist or not, that did not exhibit an unremitting need to do others down. Or, while we're on the point, one would like to know too the society of men or women that did not exhibit intemperance in consumption. As a system, capitalism, on the contrary, in modern times is a great triumph of cooperations."

She cites Shumpeter, Marx, Veblen, Gerschenkron, and Weber. However, she also notes, "An aristocratic myth, in other words, still animates the men of middle class." The point of this chapter gradually appears. A leader today must balance courage - real courage in context - with the other virtues, especially prudence, temperance and justice. So she asks an old question, "What is the virtue of virtues?" She refers to Machiavelli and Hobbes - then to Plato and Aristotle. The problem she writes that she cannot solve, nor can others, is the relationship between individual virtues and social virtues. "The dilemma is that private good is neither necessary nor sufficient for public good." She contrasts John Adams's and James Madison's expectations on how the political- social structure created in the Constitution might promote the good.

Further, she writes "In other words, courage needs other virtues to be a virtue." "A personality governed wholly by temperance is bad as one governed wholly by courage, or wholly by justice."


Part 4 - The Androgynous Virtues: Prudence and Justice


Chapter 21 - Prudence IS a Virtue
The author continues, "A person or a society must have also the last of the four pagan virtues, prudence - last in heroic value, first in political and economic and bourgeois value." "Prudence as practical know-how is a virtue." She describes the evolution of the concept from Aristotle through Aquinas to the present. She believes many philosophers are mistaken on this. This misunderstanding of what prudence actually means and what its role in action requires, requires her to devote a lengthy chapter with many citations from many authors. This is critical, since prudence is a main concept of modern economists.


Chapter 22 - The Monomania of Immanuel Kant
Monomania is the philosopher's dream of finding a single concept of a master virtue - one that would define the 'good' and describe both the means and ends man should strive to follow. She writes, "The ancients Plato and Augustine and the moderns Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham, on the contrary wanted to find some elemental, single Good that could be poured into useful shapes whole, unalloyed." "Kant called it 'pure reason' - Bentham called it 'utility'." The effort has continued to the present, as shown by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. But, she notes, "From its beginnings in Plato's writings such ethical monism did not work very well."

Kant wanted to conduct the search in the realm of pure reason. He is following Plato's concept of the Ideal. "Kant entirely separated ethics from anthropology and psychology, indeed from any empirical claim whatsoever.".... "Kant helped create the glorious yet mischievous utopianism of the Enlightenment project; but by fiat, not by reasoning."

Gradually Kant came to focus his monomania on Prudence Only as the master virtue based on his reliance in pure reason. The resulting effect, through Bentham's 'utility' has been disastrous.

Dr. McCloskey concludes, "Yet on the whole, except as I say as a historically contingent rhetorical tool of liberals against status, Lock's and Kant's and Bentham's systems have failed. They succeeded negatively as a political expedient, thank God. But afterward they failed positively as an ethical guide. They have not given us guides to action and they have not matched how we live."


Chapter 23 - The Storied Character of Virtue
This is a discussion of the practicality of virtue as a guide to action - that is action in making choices. "Deciding whether a certain act ... (examples of the contrasting principles of Kant, Hume, Bentham, Ockham, Hobbes, Locke, Rawls and Nozick) is no less difficult than deciding whether the act entails cowardice or hatred or injustice." Her point is that high level theorizing won't do it. She comments, "Guides to ethical life, to repeat, are achieved mainly through story and example." She follows with stories out of movies.


Chapter 24 - Evil as Imbalance, Inner and Outer: Temperance and Justice
Dr. McCloskey presents the commentary, mostly negative, on the previously described Platonism as followed by Kant and Bentham by a variety of authors today. Glosses on Othello and Paradise Lost and other literature come in. Her point, again, is that ethical decisions should be based on a balanced understanding of all the virtues as they interact in real situations. Turning to the virtues - Temperance and Justice - she briefly describes some definitions of these held by past societies. She concludes that it was the newly significant bourgeois who redefined both in the terms we accept today.


Chapter 25 - The Pagan-Ethical Bourgeois
The discussion begins with a description of the Stadhuis - city hall also called Royal Palace - in Amsterdam - constructed 1684-1665 as the practical monument of the victorious, practical Dutch bourgeois. On the four corners are allegorical statues of four virtues - Justice and Prudence on the front corners and Temperance and with Vigilance (substituting for courage) on the rear corners. More allegorical statues appear at the Burgerzaal; and still more at other significant locations.

Commenting on Dante's Inferno for other reasons, Dr. McCloskey cannot refrain from noting that he placed astrologers and magicians in the 8th circle "that is, in modern terms, economic forecasters". Multiple references to other sources from Cicero to Montesquieu and on to Sartre and even MacArthur's Japanese constitution fill the rest of the chapter.


Part 5 - Systematizing the Seven Virtues


Chapter 26 - The System of Virtues
The author begins, "The 'moral universe within' has been described for 2,500 years in the West, then, in terms of the seven virtues, containing hundreds of particular virtues, among which are the virtues for a bourgeois life." She describes the structure that shows their interrelationships and relevances and includes a full page diagram . The relative locations of each has its symbolic significance. We also learn that Pope Gregory (???) provided seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, avarice, anger, envy and sloth. "Sin or vice, I have argued, is the notable lack of any one or more of the virtues, and so, the seven virtues lead to seven single lacks, imprudence, injustice, intemperance, and so forth."


Chapter 27 - A Philosophical Psychology?
This chapter is quite a different one. It is a discussion based on a huge book by psychologists who have classified and categorized 'strengths of character' - 24 of them placed into categories such as courage, humanity, justice and others. Dr. McCloskey compares these with the standard 7 virtues to show similarities and differences.


Chapter 28 - Ethical Striving
Here we get to the crux of the issues. The author writes, "I have been claiming in various ways that the seven virtues or some modernized, turned down, or turned up version if you wish - anyway, virtues - are more fundamental than the three strands of modern ethical thought inherited from the European eighteenth century that are still alive in academic circles in the English speaking world, Kantianism, utilitarianism, and contractorianism." It is her analysis that claims these three are not only lacking but their exclusion of the real virtues has led to the problems that confront economics today. "That is, ethics must start from an ethical person imagined as the Ethicist, who turns out to have all seven of the Western virtues." In other words, the currently established basic strands of ethical thought all must be based on prior assumptions external to their internal argument. She cites many more philosophers and ethicists. For instance, "Good science, like other good human behavior depends on virtues, on human character." She draws a diagram that shows the search for Truth graphically approaching a limit - asymptote. A similar graph depicts the movement toward the Good. From this she launches into a criticism of science as it is practiced today, especially economics.


Chapter 29 - Ethical Realism
This chapter is about the problem, the impossibility, of knowing all the myriad small facts and interactions that if known might lead to understanding of the Truth of a matter. "An ethical realist says that what we know is not the objective world." "To put it philosophically, there is no known test for ultimate ontology."


Chapter 30 - Against Reduction
This is a commentary and dissection of current efforts to base economics on such single concepts as utilitarianism or the categorical imperative. She is especially dismissive of econometrics - basing the study of economy on mathematical theories and assumptions.


Chapter 31 - Character(s)
Which of the virtues one ought to practice in priority depends on the situation, but all are not fundamentally and totally relative. Individuals each have a unique 'character' which is revealed by which of the virtues appear in priority. And different virtues predominate in defining the type of character of individuals in different societies. She uses the virtues dominant in the different castes in Hindu culture. She believes that in our modern society one is called upon to exhibit different virtues in different contexts. She presents a table having four columns - each a category - aristocrat - peasant - bourgeois - priest and with 20 attributes in each column. But she notes that these are stereotypes. She writes, "but consider: any one of the four columns could be an ethical way for a human to live." The aristocratic, priestly and proletarian sets were once widely practiced. But now the bourgeois set is more dominant.


Chapter 32 - Antinomism Again
Here she returns to a critique of Kant and his philosophical legacy. "Kant made a mistake in rejecting as a constituent of ethics the unreasoning particularities of philosophical anthropology or philosophical psychology." and "The problem lies with Kant's unifying of ethics under the banner of reason against imagination , or any excessive unifying of the virtues.... " In fact humans are continually faced with situations in which the expectations of several virtues are at odds and the person must prioritize when deciding to act. Rationality does not do it.
Dr. McCloskey continues, "Ethical choices I say come up a hundred times a day....." Many examples follow.


Chapter 33 - Why Not One Virtue?
The author opens with, "The seven virtues of the Western tradition before Kant are ethical primary colors, the red, blue and yellow not derivable from others but themselves able to form other colors." She quotes Aquinas on this. But,. "Various moderns have tried to make up a new color wheel, with integrity and civility or indeed honesty as primary." Examples follow. But these are actually derivable from the original set. She cites Roget's Thesaurus even as of 1962 to show that the seven cannot be derived from others but the reverse is common. For example chastity, as highly regarded virtue, is actually a derivative of temperance.

She points out that the three Christian and four pagan virtues were united throughout Western thought, but Kant and Bentham tried to separate them. The result has been philosophical disruption and "ethical chaos". Of course ideas change even when expressed by the same word. Courage and Justice today have different meanings than they did in medieval or classical Europe. The basis question is 'what makes a virtue virtuous?' And now-a-days students are mostly taught that' it is a matter of opinion.' She describes Plato's categories of bad, good, better, best. And she also discusses the different views of Hobbes, Hume and Smith.


Chapter 34 - Dropping the Virtues, 1532 - 1958
This is a central and important chapter for showing where we are now by describing from where we came
Dr. McCloskey states the problem directly, "The system of the virtues developed for two millennia in the West had been widely dropped by the end of the eighteenth century, starting earlier with Machiavelli, then Bacon, then Hobbes, then Bernard Mandeville as isolated by scandalous precursors of Kant and Bentham, who then rigorously finished off the job. "The virtues were not eliminated as a result of analysis and fresh understanding, but merely dropped, set aside and ignored.

And so we are now left with the further decline produced by their followers.

But Dr. McCloskey devotes several pages to analysis of Machiavelli's huge shift in the concept of ethics in his Prince. She cites other historians who have analyzed Machiavelli's explicit use of Aristotle and Aquinas when shifting the concept of 'virtu'.

But she does not include discussion of Machiavelli's Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy, or his many other books, essays and letters. I believe she relies on second hand authors for here thoughts here.

Hobbes, she notes, went further in disparaging the very idea of ethics. The process of dropping continued.

Very interestingly, she discusses Jane Austen as a significant writer on ethics to show how far the process had advanced - deteriorated. "Remove ethical evaluation from an Austen novel and you have removed its movement. All her novels are tales of ethical development." But the virtues Austen advocates are neither the aristocratic nor the Christian system. "Jane talks of virtues up and down, back and forth, on all sides. But not from a theory." Dr. McCloskey dissects the final novel, Persuasion, by random page showing Austen's vocabulary reveals the nature of the virtues. George Orwell comes next as a subject of analysis.


Chapter 35 - Other Lists
Here the author takes up modern efforts to create lists of virtues - starting with a major one, Peterson and Seligman's Character Strengths and Virtues. This one includes a compendium of many other lists. Her comment, "But even this admirable project overlooks most of ethical philosophy, and most of what ethics says about such lists." Other efforts are also evaluated. She provides an example with Robert Fogel's list in which he proposed a set of 15 that he thinks would be good for the poor. How Fogel's Fifteen Virtues Lie Down on the Classical Seven. She comments that that 'there is nothing objectionable about Fogel's list' except is too long and random. William Bennett's list of ten receives a similar evaluation; as does another from Andre Comte-Sponville. The problem described about all these and in general is 'slapdash' effort and lack of systematic study of ethical systems.


Chapter 36 - Eastern and Other Ways
Dr. McCloskey stops to honor the authors she has just criticized for inadequate discussion of ethics and values. She wants to put on record that "at least they use some list of unfungible, completely interacting, and above all storied virtues: " this in comparison of course with the economic establishment. The convention is to advise, "Maximize utility" or "Follow the categorical imperative". The 'shortcoming' she repeatedly cites is lack of discussion of the separate virtues in favor of sticking to the single Prudence. In this chapter she discusses the similar concepts in Chinese and Japanese philosophical traditions.


Chapter 37 - Needing Virtues
In this chapter the modern rejection of ethics is shown as Machiavelli depicts it - the reliance on power, that is force. Prudence only - utilitarianism - are now championed by noted authors including jurists. "Economists and calculators have launched the attack by the new clerisy on preaching to virtues." "Russell the aristocrat and mathematical philosopher applied low and sometimes no standards to his opinions about ethics and politics and economics." The Athenians used the logic of prudence only when debating ( and destroying) the Melians, but found themselves on the receiving end in 404 BC. And Judge Richard Posner comes in for specific condemnation.


Part 6 - The Bourgeois uses of the Virtues


Chapter 38 - Pe'-S and the Capitalist Life
The author starts off with, "prudence is the central ethical virtue of the bourgeoisie in the way that courage is of the aristocrat-hero or love is of the peasant -saint. But the point is that it is not the only one" Adam Smith 'embedded' it among the other virtues. The "P's" stand for prudential variables and the "S's" stand for Solidarity variables (or profane and sacred variables). The author believes that economists today stick exclusively to the "P" but should be mixing both into a whole. "Any society operates with both P and S."

Karl Polanyi and Moses Finley are mentioned in passing, we meet them again in volume 3.

She continues, "There has to be a transcendent goal to a career in business."
What she is avocating is what von Mises describes in Human Action, or the Biblical statement that 'man does not live by bread alone.' In other words, there is no such person as 'economic man'. From this she turns to the real world, practical life of economics. "Many fine scholars believe the claim that modern life is unusually devoted to gain. It is mistaken" No - "Its heart is innovation." The "P" only mode of self interest is not a true description of human behavior.


Chapter 39 - Sacred Reasons
Again, "The Sacred and profane are woven together." Another example is the art world and the negotiations over sale of new works of art. Another is the organization Doctors without Borders.


Chapter 40 - Not by P Alone
The examples continue with a restatement of the earlier points. "Humans live through both P and S. That is to say, a good person is motivated by prudence, but also by other virtues, such as love faith, courage, temperance, justice and hope." The 'frugal' Dutch are a national example of the importance of prudence in a society. But exhibiting prudence is itself a response to a belief that this is what one 'should' do - a S value. She offers much more of typical Dutch thinking. Then she discusses Irene van Staveren and reproduces van Staveren's table in which she categories ethics into three types relating to government (justice), market (prudence), and home (love). Very interesting indeed.


Chapter 41 - The Myth of Modern Rationality
Dr. McCloskey believes that "But likewise in conservative America S is bigger there than the official P-Only theories would allow." She notes that the 'myth' of modern rationality began with D'Alembert, Bentham, Comte, Renan and others. She points out that well known decisions were not based on rationality - prudence. Bids by contractors on projects regularly are too low. She cites various examples. Among other influences are political considerations. She comments, "It is often a scientific mistake, that is, to rely on POnly , and to reject S." Her target in all this is economists who base their 'rational' theories on POnly.


Chapter 42 - God's Deal
In this chapter Dr. McCloskey discusses various efforts by commentastors to determine Jesus's attitude toward prudence and acquiring wealth. She also comments on ideas from other religions.

But I believe she misses a valuable point that would help explain for her the 'treason' of the intelligentsia. From the Bible we read that Jesus warns against materialism and excessive pursuit of wealth. But he does not directly confront wealthy individuals nor is he confronted by them. Rather he constantly is in conflict with the Jewish intelligentsia. About what? About ideas. And it is the intelligentsia who finally stir up a mob before Pilate and demand Jesus be executed. Throughout history the domain of the intelligentsia is ideas the control of which confers on them power. Some members of the intelligentsia are content to have power by supplying the ruler with theories of legitimacy to justify his reign. While others use ideas in seeking the overthrow of rulers in hopes of acquiring power as supporters of a new reign. Voltaire's generation supported the bourgeois 'revolution' as a way to overthrow aristocracy, expecting that their ideas would then dominate. But the generations from the 1840's on have been dismayed that bourgeois ideas have continued to dominate.


Chapter 43 - Necessary Excess?
The first sentence summarizes the full situation. "The clerisy thinks that capitalist spending is just awful." Among others Dr. McCloskey mentions Herbert Marcuse. Dr. Muller's description of Marcuse in The Mind and the Market is devastating on this point. Marcuse has a strong influence on students in the 1960's. His candid expressions of the attitude of the intelligentsia toward 'middle and 'lower' classes' - most of the population - might be revealing to young people today.

Dr. McCloskey wonders why the intelligentsia today abhors advertising so much. Clearly, the content of advertising is NOT the ideas of which they approve and develop. She discusses many aspects of intelligentsia thinking such as on consumerism. This topic is well described also in Frank Trentmann's Empire of Things.. She also touches on the Keynesian mistake over 'the paradox of thrift'.


Chapter 44 - Good Work
The chapter begins with discussion of the ideas of Benjamin Hunnicutt and Herbert Marcuse. The main contention is that capitalism 'forces' people to work by seducing everyone with collecting masses of unnecessary goods, but people would be better off with less. Now, of course, we also learn from intelligentsia environmentalists that not only humans but also the planet suffers from excess consumption.


Chapter 45 - Wage Slavery
This is the mantra of Marcuse and his ilk. Dr. McCloskey should quote more from von Mises - Human Action - on this. The current intelligentsia disdain for work - calling it slavery - is right out of Cicero and typical Roman and Greek concepts that 'gentlemen' did not soil themselves with work. And this attitude was not eliminated by the bourgeois own view of the dignity of work, but lasted throughout the 19th century. She strongly disagrees, writing, "Work in capitalism is not always alienating." Always able to insert humorous stories, she quotes this famous line about Communism. "Under capitalism, man exploits man; under socialism it's the other way around'.

Another claimed disaster brought on by capitalism is the mass migration from bucolic countrysides into deeming urban slums. She notes as an obvious current example of the intelligentsia misunderstanding the massive recent and continuing mass migration of rural Chinese into huge new cities.


Chapter 46 - The Rich
Here we read that the attack on the 'rich' is part of a zero-sum game. She notes that the famous "labor theory of value' is false. But the intelligentsia drum beat is either than to get rich one must 'exploit' domestic workers or do even worse exploitation of Third World populations. All of this is false. She comments, "The stealing and taxes discourage production, and so the outcome is worse even than zero-sum. Such negative -sum alternatives to exchange have historically been the norm, which is one reason that sustained economic growth happened only once."

In their terrific book - The Invention of Enterprise - which they begin in ancient Mesopotamia, David Landes, Joel Mokyr and William Baumol give us a wonderful definition of their idea of entrepreneurs - individuals who are independent in their pursuit of wealth. The two categories are redistributive entrepreneurs and productive entrepreneurs. The former are all to prevalent throughout history, some considered 'illegal' such as pirates and some 'legal, such as government officials. They merely 'redistribute' already existing assets - generally for their own benefit. But 'productive' entrepreneurs create the new assets (including knowledge) that they 'redistribute'.

Dr. McCloskey describes this idea. "Unlike stealing or taxing or high-handedly appropriating, that is, exchange is a positive, not zero-or-negative sum game." "The seller and buyer didn't have to enter the deal, and by their willingness they show they are made better off. One can say it more strongly, only such deals are just." But, "The envious, jealous, spiteful, or begrudging person will want to bring in the state and its monopoly of violence to achieve such rights for himself."

She is thinking of those desiring direct redistribution of wealth. But I maintain that the very same adjectives describe members of the intelligentsia who want to regain control over the creation and distribution of ideas.


Chapter 47 - Good Barons
Yes, most of them were good for society. "Only a temperate prudence, not an intemperate greed, I say, is required to keep an economy running well." And, "Allocation of goods to the use of the highest value is one result of profit." Dr. McCloskey gives interesting examples of successful business people and some of the results. She notes that steel rails sold for $100 a hundredweight in 1890 and about $25 a hundredweight by 1900. Crude oil sold for $3.50 a barrel in 1870 and .90 cents a barrel by 1900. In 1870 the average American produced and consumed $2,460 worth of goods and services in 1990 prices, by 1900 the number was $4,100." She writes that Carnegie sold his corporation for $300 million in 1901 to become the richest man in the world, but that was only 1.5 one thousandths of the rise in the production he helped deliver. And then Carnegie gave all of it away. John D. Rockefeller did the same.


Chapter 48 -The Anxieties of Bourgeois Virtues
Dr. McCloskey sums up. "I am recommending what might be thought of philosophically speaking as a libertarian version of Aristotelianism. Or perhaps, theologically speaking, a capitalist version of Pelagianism." "The always present alternative to Kant and Bentham was Hobbes and Locke, that is to say, contractarianism, the third way in modern European ethical philosophy.' After Smith, his ethical dimension was eliminated, a disaster. The bourgeois virtues were abandoned and replaced by "contractarianism'. And authors continue to attempt to solve the problem, "to found society on contract without ethics - morals by agreement, ethics within the limits of reason." She provides a nice table with three columns to describe the three political philosophies - Hobbesian, Smithian and Socialist. In conclusion she restates her thesis, that society today should practice the seven virtues and that to some extent at least we do.


Postscript - The Unfinished Case for the Bourgeois Virtues
In this section Dr. McCloskey lays out her proposed organization for the following publications. As we see with the following two actual books, she changed her approach, but fulfilled her objectives. Nevertheless, it is interesting to read what her original concepts were.
Original Volume 2 was to be "The Bourgeois Virtues - Bourgeois Towns: how a Capitalist Ethic Grew in the Dutch and English Lands, 1600- 1800 "- Its content was to be an historical narrative of the way 'Virtues fared in Northwestern Europe, and with what consequences for the Nineteenth Century"

As we see, in actual Volume 2 - "Bourgeois Dignity" - some attention is included to the history, but it is more focused on theoretical examination of current as well as previous economic theory to show that it does not explain reality.

Original Volume 3 - "The Bourgeois Virtues - The Treason of the Clerisy: How Capitalism Was Demoralized in the Age of Romance" - The content was to be an exposition of the 'tragic turn after 1848 against the Bourgeoise by the artists and intellectuals of Europe and its offshoots" This was to be focused first on Romanticism, then Modernism - Nationalism and Socialism -These topics are included in the final work but with less emphasis and detail.

The actual Volume 3 - "Bourgeois Equality - How Ideas, not capital or institutions, enriched the world" is described as "The Three Volumes show that we are rich because of an Ethical and Rhetorical Change" contains the original thesis, but in a different theoretical context.

There was to be a Volume 4 - The Bourgeois Virtues - Defending the Defensible The Case for an Ethical Capitalism" which was more explicitly what it says - defense. The defense is still there in the actual volumes.


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