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The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Modern European Thought Hardcover – November 12, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Global markets destroy local cultures. Corporate greed breeds poverty wages. Slogans shouted at a demonstration against the World Trade Organization? Not exactly. As Catholic University history professor Muller argues, these were the concerns of European intellectuals as they witnessed the rise of modern capitalism. Even the market's great advocates, from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter, feared its effects, Muller says. The market promoted individual liberties, self-interest and wealth accumulation. But the market also threatened to unleash avarice, wreak havoc on traditions, and destroy any sense of the common good. In clear if not inspired prose, Muller provides trenchant analyses of obscure and well-known students of capitalism. None of his subjects was an economist narrowly defined; all were "moral philosophers" concerned with the orderly and positive development of human society and the efficient production and distribution of goods. Left and right, they shared many ideas. Few Americans have heard of Justus M"ser, but his defense of fixed inequalities and locally based production contributed to a powerful conservative critique of capitalism. On towering figures like Smith and Marx, Muller manages to provide fresh insights, and the chapter on Hegel, a notably difficult philosopher, is remarkably lucid. Some of the later chapters are less compelling, and the author's conclusions are rather too restrained. He is content to delineate the "vital tensions" that have accompanied the rise of capitalism and refrains from openly championing the ideas of one or another of his intellectuals. Still, this study illuminates the long lineage of engagement with the social consequences of capitalism.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The author, a professor of history at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., examines the moral, social, and political implications of capitalism through the eyes of more than a dozen European thinkers. Some--such as Adam Smith, Joseph Schumpeter, and Friedrich Hayek--are conventionally regarded as economists, while others--including Voltaire and Karl Marx--were philosophers who wrote in either support or criticism of the market-based society. A recurrent theme is the early Christian belief that commerce (the trading of goods produced by others for profit) and finance (profiting from money itself) were immoral. However, once these activities became a necessary part of society, the anti-Semitic environment of Europe forced the Jews, who were traditionally farmers and craftsmen, into the roles of money handlers. This work is an in-depth study of the origins of thought about markets and their effects on people, when thinking men easily questioned whether capitalism is good for people. It is a wonderful contrast to today's blind worship of materialism and economic progress. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414114
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By MARK SKOUSEN, on January 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It isn't often that I find myself reading an entire book, or taking notes on every page, but that's how intriguing I found Jerry Muller's easy-to-read and profound new book. I am an admirer of his previous work, Adam Smith in His Time and Ours, which I cited several times in my own history, "The Making of Modern Economics." But this book outperforms all previous efforts. It is essentially an historical commentary on the long-standing debate over the cultural effects of capitalism, a debate between the advocates (Voltaire, Adam Smith, Burke, Hegel, Weber, Schumpeter, and Hayek) and the critics (Rousseau, Marx, Arnold, Sombart, Lukacs, Keynes, and Marcuse). I learned a great deal, especially Voltaire's fraudulent business practices, Burke's long fight against the East India Company, Hegel's surprising defense of individualism and the market, the brilliant insights of Georg Simmel, Schumpeter's subtle subterfuge of intellectuals, and Muller's extensive coverage of anti-semitism and capitalism. (One surprising omission is Veblen, whose cultural criticisms of capitalism are well-known, but frankly, it is refreshing to read a book without a reference to the conspicuous Veblen). I won't give away author's perspective on this never-ending debate, but one can only be awe-struck by Muller's achievement.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Augustas B. on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable book. Besides the usual variety that appears in most books on economic thought (Smith, Marx, Keynes, Hayek, Schumpeter) it includes a nice selection of non-economists such as Voltaire, Burke and Marcuse. Muller is a master of situating intellectuals in their respective context and presenting them in lively detail. Having read Voltaire's "Candide", it was remarkable to find out about his personal adventures with financial speculation. When dealing with Smith, Muller takes pains to retain all the nuances, such as Smith's claim that division of labor, no matter how productive, could make human beings "as stupid and ignorant as it possible for a human creature to become". As Muller is a specialist on conservative thought, his treatment of a variety of criticisms of the market by conservatives is very intriguing. Furthermore, although chapters are written in a way to make them independent of each other, Muller links them nicely using common themes and referring back to already discussed, older ideas. One of such themes is the identification of capitalism with Jews. One might find it surprising how old and often recurring this identification was in European thought.

My main qualm regards Muller's treatment of the left. Although all of the selections are understandable (Marx is a must, Lukacs is representative of 20th century communism and easy to juxtapose with Freyer, while Marcuse is representative of the New Left), large strands of interesting left-wing thought are omitted. Karl Polanyi who wrote the classic about the industrial revolution and the nature of the market ("The Great Transformation") and who seems like a perfect addition to such a book is only mentioned in one of the hundreds of footnotes. Anarchists seem non-existent.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
THE MIND AND THE MARKET is a compulsively readable history of economic thought which deserves to be a best-seller. I am not an economist or a political philosopher but rather a writer about the arts and culture, and I am devouring this book. The chapters on Hegel, Marx, and Matthew Arnold are each alone worth the price of admission. Muller carries his erudition lightly, and his prose has the calm, effortless, sparkling lucidity of a great teacher lecturing in his prime.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By R. Price on April 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is not a book I would have read six months ago since I am typically not very interested in economics or political theory. But a required class in modern political economy helped change my outlook and introduced me to what thinkers such as Adam Smith actually said, which is quite different from what libertarians claim today. Muller's book fed my new found interest and then some.
Muller examines how some of western civilization's greatest minds have thought about capitalism and the market. He includes thinkers that are both traditionally viewed as economists (Smith, Hayek, Schumpeter) and others not usually identified with economics (Burke, Voltaire, and Arnold). Each chapter provides an excellant summary of these thinkers and can be read alone or out of order if one wishes. One has to admire Muller for his objectivity, he studies the individuals according to their own terms and doesn't seek to judge them. Every theorist has identifiable faults and Muller points these out without bias. My personal favorite chapters were those on Smith, Hayek and Matthew Arnold.
My only (minor) criticism is that I thought Muller could have dealt with Keynes in more detail. I feel he short-changed the man who in many ways defined much of the mid-20th century. I also thought a chapter on Amartya Sen might have been interesting, but it makes since to pick those theorists who are dead since their work can't develop any futher.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By fred stahl on March 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Capitalism is the world's most powerful idea about political, economic and moral relationships between people, enterprises and the state. It has brought immense opulence to hundreds of millions of people and hope for economic liberation to hundreds of millions more. But capitalism is not just a way of doing business. No culture nor any state can harness capitalism with a management school curriculum. Capitalism is a complex tapestry of economic arrangements, governmental obligations, cultural traditions, personal behavioral norms, concepts for production enterprises, methods of management, public acceptance of investment, encourage of competition, religious and ethnic tolerance and ideas of personal property. It is a historical fact that secular states with individual economic liberty and free markets harvest the most from capitalism. Capitalism is not just economics.
Capitalism, as a global culture that defines our modern civilization, is therefore too important to be left to the economists. Jerry Z. Muller, a historian, has given us a book which in its sweep and breadth is up to the task of giving us a deeply thoughtful and insightful analysis of the evolution of capitalism's political, economic, social, ethical and psychological threads from early European thinking through the big intellectual ideas of the late Twentieth Century. He tells the story of the idea of the market, as it is formed and transformed by the great socio-politico-economic intellectuals - Voltaire, Adam Smith, Burke, Hegel, Marx, Simmell, Schumpeter, Keynes, Marcuse, Hayek, and others. As a historian, Muller interprets each man in the context of his time and culture. Muller's analysis is even handed, one of the great virtues of the book.
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