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The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce Hardcover – July 15, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce is at 508 pages a hefty work but it is in fact just the first of four books Professor McCloskey has planned to write on our attitudes toward how we earn a living. I am not among those McCloskey sees as her primary audience--the romantic, anti-capitalist clerisy--for I admire the bourgeoisie and capitalism. Indeed, my heroes are foremost among McCloskey's heroes--Montesquieu, David Hume, and especially Adam Smith. Yet I believe that McCloskey fails to achieve her aims of defending capitalism and bourgeois character. She does so in a way that may actually escape attention as one reads this sometimes engaging but often tedious and very long book. The book seeks to defend "virtue ethics" against Kantian, utilitarian and contractarian ethical theories and it provides a catalogue of seven "bourgeois" virtues--love, faith, hope, courage, temperance, prudence and justice. The first three virtues McCloskey associates more with women than men and she acknowledges the obvious fact that they are essentially the Christian, "sacred" virtues. The other four virtues she associates more with men than women but they are even older than the sacred virtues because they were identified and described by the ancient, pagan Greeks and Romans. So, descriptions of the "bourgeois" virtues predate the bourgeois era by some 1800 years or more.Read more ›
"I claim that the modern world was made by a new, faithful dignity accorded to the bourgeois - in assuming its proper place -and by a new, hopeful liberty - in venturing forth. To assume one's place and to venture: dignity and liberty. "
Dignity and liberty work. By now we should have ceased being shocked by their efficacy. The special development zone of Shenzen, a suburb of Hong Kong went from being a small fishing village to an 8 million soul metropolis in two decades. True, it didn't happen without some nasty rent-seeking by party officials and their friends. But out of such creative destruction are average incomes dramatically raised. Such a feat required a shift in rhetoric: stop jailing millionaires and start admiring them; stop resisting creative destruction and start speaking well of innovation; stop over-regulating markets and start letting people make deals, corrupt or not.
THE OLD VIEW OF THE BOURGEOISIE
Until the view of the bourgeoisie suddenly changed in academic circles in Spain, then in commercial and (some) political circles in Holland and then in Britain and the United States, dignity and liberty for the bougeoisie was viewed as an outrageous absurdity. Of course, the bourgeoisie was contemptible!! In Confucianism the 4th and lowest of the social classes is the merchant, only just on a par with the carriers of night-soil; or in Christianity, the camel having a better chance of passing through the eye of the needle than a rich man entering heaven.
Around 1700, for the first time ever, deals to buy spices (or steam engines) low and sell them high were admired. The admiration overturned various anti-bourgeois stereotypes which had so long prevailed ....Read more ›
Then there is the peculiar writing style. A sort of casual/highbrow mix, throwing ideas down, gathering complex conceits in folksy contrived phrases. Not much thought to whether a sentence is complete or not. Syntax is pretty casual. It's beginning to affect my own writing of this review, so I'd better stop.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you missed professor McCloskey's economics classes, read the Bourgeois books! An incredibly enlightening resource!Published 6 months ago by Ron R. Guzman
Are there flaws in McCloskey's amazingly courageous Bourgeois Virtues? Yes, there are flaws, and a lot of them. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Daniel Schut
Interesting. Much more detailed than I would want. Discusses the 4 pagan and the 3 Christian virtues-Courage, justice, temperance prudence faith hope and love. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Ronald Moomaw
When I was a freshman undergraduate I had a philosophy professor who seemed to restate his points regularly. Read morePublished on July 31, 2014 by SteamerD
The Bourgeois Virtues has some strengths - interesting anecdotes and ruminations - but if someone's trying to convince me of something with practical import, I need evidence. Read morePublished on April 21, 2014 by Surprised in Texas
Very, very good series(can't wait for #3!) Fills in some missing pieces in our current back and forth political/econ discussions in an intelligent way. Read morePublished on March 5, 2014 by Elisabeth M. Young
Over written, too wordy.
Has some interesting concepts but could have cut out 50 pages at least as there was too much stuffing that slows the reader down.
Only read parts of this book because I had to for an Econ class. I love economics and have read several good books on the subject, but this was not one of them. Read morePublished on June 24, 2013 by Amazon Customer