©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

On Bourgeois Dignity

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"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 hypostheses 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

"If Peter Boettke's glowing review of volume one, Bourgeois Virtues, is any guide, McCloskey's take on the emergence of a bourgeois dignity will also become compulsory reading for any serious student of scholarly thought on Western Civilisation."

Julie Novak

"Praise is due to Deirdre McCloskey for the work she has done and continues to do on behalf of reinvigorating the scholarly vocation in economics. She is a bold and courageous individual, a champion of intellectual integrity and effective comunication, and - it just so happens - a damn good economist, historian, and social philosopher."

Peter Boettke

"But having over many years considered the general problem of economic growth, and the specific puzzle of the timing and location of the Industrial Revolution, McCloskey has come to a stunning epiphany."

Greg Clark

"One of the many rewards for reading Bourgeois Dignity is to get from a world-class historian as in-depth and eloquent a tour of commercial and industrial history as can possibly be fit within a single volume."

Don Beaudreaux

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     The big economic story of the past 400 years is not in its origin economic. And the big economic story of our own times is not the Great Recession. It is how China and India have embraced neoliberal ideas of economics, attributing a sense of dignity and liberty to the bourgeoisie denied for so long. The result has been an explosion in economiic growth, and proof that economic change depends less on foreign trade, investment, property rights, exploitation, imperialism, genetics, and other material causes, and a great deal more on ideas and what people believe."

     Or so says Deirdre N. McCloskey in this fiercely contrarian history that wases a similar argument about economics in the West. Bourgeois Dignity turns 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 or imperial theft, but rather of shifting opinions about the economy. Talk of private property, commerce, innovation, and the bourgeoisie radically altered, becoming far more approving and contradicting prejudices several millennia old The wealth of nations, then, didn't grow so dramatically after 1800 because of economic factors; it grew because rhetoric about markets, enterprise, and innovation finally became enthusiatic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.

     Bourgeois Dignity retells the story of modern economic growth, recasting what we thought we knew from 1776 to the present. McCloskey tests the tradtional stories against what actually happened — and the usual stories don't work very well. Not Marx and his classes. Not Max Weber and his Protestants. Not Fernand Braudel and his Mafia-style capitalists. Not Douglass North and his institutions. Not the mathematical theories of endogenous growth. Not the left wing's theory of working-class struggle, nor the right wing's theory of spiritual decline. What works is "rhetoric." What people said about markets and innovation changed in Holland and then England and then the world.

     An utterly fascinating sequel to her critically acclaimed The Bourgeois Virtues, the book is a feast of intellectual riches from one of our most spirited and ambitious economists and historians. It is a work that will forever change our understanding of how persuasion shapes our economic lives, introducing a new humanomics and a new history. Deirdre McCloskey