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The anti-materialist project of "The Bourgeois Era"

McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen (2009): The anti-materialist project of "The Bourgeois Era".

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Abstract

It is a materialist prejudice common in scholarship from 1890 to 1980 that economic results must have economic causes. But ideas caused the modern world. The point can be made by looking through each of the materialist explanations, from the “original accumulation” favored by early Marxist historians to the "new institutionalism” favored by late Samuelsonian economists. The book present does so, and finds them surprisingly weak. The residual is ideas, in particular the Bourgeois Revaluation of the 17th and 18th centuries in northwest Europe. The argument takes six books, constituting a full-scale defense of capitalism. One is already published (The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce 2006), and this is volume 2. Volume 3 will explore exactly how the Revaluation occurred, first in Holland and then by imitation in England, Scotland, Pennsylvania, and the world. Volume 4 explores the balance of interest (Max U) and language in explaining the Industrial Revolution and its longer-term consequences; volume 5 explains why the clerisy of elite artists and intellectuals turned against innovation after 1848; and volume 6 asks which of the present-day complaints about free-market economies has merit. Since the sestet (“The Bourgeois Era”) is a defense, one can expect not to find arguments that globalization is bad for the poor, or that innovation has destroyed the environment. Both left and right are suspicious of the modern world, often for the same reasons. “The Bourgeois Era” argues that both are mistaken: that innovation has elevated people, in more than goods alone.

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