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Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World

Current price: $22.50
Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
ISBN:
9780226556741
Pages:
592
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Description

The big economic story of our times is not the Great Recession. It is how China and India began to embrace neoliberal ideas of economics and attributed a sense of dignity and liberty to the bourgeoisie they had denied for so long. The result was an explosion in economic growth and proof that economic change depends less on foreign trade, investment, or material causes, and a whole lot more on ideas and what people believe.

Or so says Deirdre N. McCloskey in Bourgeois Dignity, a fiercely contrarian history that wages a similar argument about economics in the West. Here she turns her attention to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe to reconsider the birth of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. According to McCloskey, our modern world was not the product of new markets and innovations, but rather the result of shifting opinions about them. During this time, talk of private property, commerce, and even the bourgeoisie itself radically altered, becoming far more approving and flying in the face of prejudices several millennia old. The wealth of nations, then, didn’t grow so dramatically because of economic factors: it grew because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise finally became enthusiastic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.

An utterly fascinating sequel to her critically acclaimed book The Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity is a feast of intellectual riches from one of our most spirited and ambitious historians—a work that will forever change our understanding of how the power of persuasion shapes our economic lives.

About the Author

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is distinguished professor emerita of economics and of history, and professor emerita of English and of communication, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Praise for Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World

“The startling perspective McCloskey brings to the history of economics qualifies her as the Max Weber of our times. This is a wonderfully entertaining and stimulating antidote for the reigning view of Homo Economicus.”

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“Over a wide range of nations and times, McCloskey advances the arresting thesis that humble ideas, especially those pertaining to the role of a bourgeois dignity, supply the spark that jumpstarts the rest of the process. Readers will be impressed with the breadth of her knowledge, the clarity of her thought, and the sophistication of this finely wrought book.”
— Richard Epstein

“Deirdre McCloskey has embarked on a heroic enterprise, the wholesale reconsideration of the modern capitalist economy. The author’s lightness of touch is deeply admirable: competing hypotheses from the Protestant Ethic to technological determinism are rounded up and dispatched in a wonderfully invigorating fashion, and not the least of the many virtues of Bourgeois Dignity is the demonstration that serious argument can also be fun.”
— Alan Ryan

"McCloskey's argument runs counter to the prevailing wisdom. However, readers who disagree with her thesis will surely benefit from this exceptionally well-written book, which draws on wide-ranging scholarship that extends well beyond economics proper. . . . Highly recommended."
— Choice

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2011
— Choice

"Bourgeois Dignity is a contrarian account of economic development that addresses and disarms its opponents. . . . McCloskey provides a useful correction to those who rely upon materialist reductive explanations to account for a complex phenomenon. For those who wish to know about how the West had economically developed and how the East may soon be, Bourgeois Dignity is the book to read."
— VoegelinView