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The Bourgeois Virtues

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  • McCloskey, Deirdre N.

Abstract

For a century and a half, the artists and intellectuals of Europe have scorned the bourgeoisie. And for a millennium and a half, the philosophers and theologians of Europe have scorned the marketplace. The bourgeois life, capitalism, Mencken’s “booboisie” and David Brooks’s “bobos”—all have been, and still are, framed as being responsible for everything from financial to moral poverty, world wars, and spiritual desuetude. Countering these centuries of assumptions and unexamined thinking is Deirdre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Virtues , a magnum opus that offers a radical view: capitalism is good for us. McCloskey’s sweeping, charming, and even humorous survey of ethical thought and economic realities—from Plato to Barbara Ehrenreich—overturns every assumption we have about being bourgeois. Can you be virtuous and bourgeois? Do markets improve ethics? Has capitalism made us better as well as richer? Yes, yes, and yes, argues McCloskey, who takes on centuries of capitalism’s critics with her erudition and sheer scope of knowledge. Applying a new tradition of “virtue ethics” to our lives in modern economies, she affirms American capitalism without ignoring its faults and celebrates the bourgeois lives we actually live, without supposing that they must be lives without ethical foundations. High Noon , Kant, Bill Murray, the modern novel, van Gogh, and of course economics and the economy all come into play in a book that can only be described as a monumental project and a life’s work. The Bourgeois Virtues is nothing less than a dazzling reinterpretation of Western intellectual history, a dead-serious reply to the critics of capitalism—and a surprising page-turner.

Suggested Citation

  • McCloskey, Deirdre N., 2006. "The Bourgeois Virtues," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226556635.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:bkecon:9780226556635
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Kirchler & Jürgen Huber & Matthias Stefan & Matthias Sutter, 2016. "Market Design and Moral Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, pages 2615-2625.
    2. Kirstein Roland, 2012. "Der Anstieg der Management-Vergütung: Markt oder Macht?. Anmerkungen zum gleichnamigen von Margit Osterloh und Katja Rost herausgegebenen Band," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 63(1), pages 483-488, January.
    3. Boettke, Peter, 2012. "A behavioral approach to the political and economic inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 753-756.
    4. Gregory Wolcott, 2015. "The New (Old) Case for the Ethics of Business," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 127-146, November.
    5. Melinda Majláth & Timur kHrotko,, 2012. "Internalization of Ecological Problems – Is This the Right Method?," Proceedings of FIKUSZ '12,in: Pál Michelberger (ed.), Proceedings of FIKUSZ '12, pages 135-146 Óbuda University, Keleti Faculty of Business and Management.
    6. James Alm & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 635-651, July.
    7. Arjo Klamer, 2011. "Cultural entrepreneurship," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 24(2), pages 141-156, June.
    8. Stringham, Edward Peter, 2011. "Embracing morals in economics: The role of internal moral constraints in a market economy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 98-109, April.
    9. Mccannon, Bryan C., 2014. "Trust, reciprocity, and a preference for economic freedom: experimental evidence," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(03), pages 451-470, September.
    10. Horvath Michael & Frei Kilian, 2012. "Eine humane Ökonomie?. Julian Nida-Rümelins Neuinterpretation antiker Tugendethik," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 63(1), pages 475-483, January.
    11. Walton Padelford & Darin White, 2009. "The Shaping of a Society’s Economic Ethos: A Longitudinal Study of Individuals’ Morality of Profit-Making Worldview," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 85(1), pages 67-75, March.
    12. George Bragues, 2009. "Adam Smith’s Vision of the Ethical Manager," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 90(4), pages 447-460, December.
    13. Tigran Melkonyan & Mark Pingle, 2008. "Religion and Faith: A Decision Theory Perspective," Working Papers 08-003, University of Nevada, Reno, Department of Economics;University of Nevada, Reno , Department of Resource Economics.
    14. Hrotko, Timur, 2008. "Wash Corporate Heads! Business Practice can be Changed via the Dispositions of Executives: Re-socialization towards Implicit Eco-sustainability," MPRA Paper 9089, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 13 May 2008.
    15. repec:gam:jijfss:v:6:y:2018:i:1:p:11-:d:127786 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Horwitz, Steven, 2012. "How capitalism and the bourgeois virtues transformed and humanized the family," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 792-795.

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