From Publishers Weekly
Eschewing the notion that capitalism is evil and the middle class is soft and cowardly, University of Illinois professor McCloskey argues that bourgeois economic practices and people promote the widest possible range of virtues. An economically free and prosperous middle class is not only peaceable, law-abiding and prudent, McCloskey argues, it can also be artistic and spiritual, and support traditional cultures, protect the environment, win wars, make discoveries and care for the unfortunate better than aristocratic or proletarian social organizations. Though her overarching aim is to develop a modern theory and taxonomy of virtues, promoting libertarian economic views and summarizing 250 years of normative economic writings, McCloskey only sketches her argument here; the details will be left to three subsequent volumes. Most of this book is a technical survey of virtues that emphasizes Catholic theology, though it includes material from other traditions. The prose style is arch and obscure, often relying on brief quotations from philosophers, economists and historians and then rebutting them. Without the future volumes, these challenging 600 pages represent a highly idiosyncratic survey with no obvious focus. (June)
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"Deirdre McCloskey's unfashionable, contrarian, and compelling manifesto in favor of what she calls the bourgeois virtues starts with an uncompromising 'apology' for how private property, free labor, free trade, and prudent calculation are the font of most ethical good in modern society, not a moral threat to it. . . . Ms McCloskey is spectacularly well read. She can pull an apposite quotation not only from her heroes, such as Adam Smith and Thomas Aquinas, but also from Thucydides and Machiavelli, or from the anthropologist Ruth Benedict and the contemporary philosopher Alistair MacIntyre, or (for that matter) from the movies 'Groundhog Day' and 'Shane.' What is more, she writes with wonderful ease. Her style is conversational and lively, sometimes even cheeky, so that even the toughest concepts seem palatable."
(Matt Ridley Wall Street Journal
“An impressive collection of intellectual riches.”
(Alan Ryan New York Review of Books
"The Bourgeois Virtues is the most comprehensive attempt yet published to show that Sunday and Monday virtues are compatible and complementary. Deirdre McCloskey's grasp of history, philosophy, the social sciences and non-Christian religions makes the treatment of the classical virtues rich and deep."—James Halteman, Christian Century
(James Halteman Christian Century
"A significant contribution to the study of the moral basis of economic life and thought. McCloskey has woven many sources and a number of traditions together to provide the beginnings of an argument and discussion of the role of virtues in economic life. Her approach intersects with, but also challenges, ongoing steams of research in the areas of behavioral economics and social, cultural, and institutional economics, and her vision is original."
(Jonathan S. Feinstein Journal of Economic Literature
"This book is unfair in many ways. For all the seriousness of the content, it is written in such a beguiling manner that the reader is seduced into reading for sheer enjoyment rather than dutifully putting together wisdom and enlightenment."
(Paul B. Trescott Magill's Literary Annual
"This is an admirable start to a bold project. Readers will find the extensive citations from literature, art, and history entertaining and informative, and the scope of the study should provide food for thought on a wide range of topics.. Most importantly . . . it illuminates the question at the heart of current debates over the marklet system and how it affects people."
(John D. Larrivee Journal of Markets & Morality