©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

On The Bourgeois Virtues

Back Cover

"Like a classic bard from ancient days, Deirdre McCloskey sings the triumph of capitalist virtue in two senses: the qualities of personal behavior that allow capitalism to succeed, and the human achievement that capitalist economies have historically made possible. Readers will agree with these central premises or not, but no one can fail to be impressed, indeed astonished, at the depth of learning and the breadth of erudition on display in this incredibly rich account."

Benjamin M. Friedman, Economics, Harvard

"There are few scholars who understand the complex and subtle interconnections of economics with philosophy and history as well as Deirdre N. McCloskey. The Bourgeois Virtues forces readers to rethink issues long tucked away as settled."

Robert W. Fogel, Nobel laureate in economics

The Bourgeois Virtues is like no other book on this topic. Exhilarating and provocative, surprising, at times maddening, but always insightful, it powerfully argues against a narrow conception of economic rationality based on prudence alone. Even economic man, or woman, McCloskey shows, needs to cultivate a wide range of human virtues and to think of ends in a variegated Aristotelian way."

Martha Nussbaum, Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago

"This stunningly fresh apologia for capitalism reworks Thomas Aquinas's integration of the Christian and pagan virtues for us. Its aggressive yet chatty style is so direct and liberating that the reader cannot get off easily, but is compelled to listen. She is waging war against the academic orthodoxy in which we live and move and have our being that virtue and capitalism are antithetical. It is well worth reading just to see if she can turn your head."

Ellen Charry, Professor of Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"You wonder how economics could be thought of as a 'dismal science' when you read Deirdre McCloskey. In Bourgeois Virtues, she turns her humane and encyclopedic wisdom to a brilliant defense of a much maligned, misunderstood homo economicus. Even when you disagree with its ideas, you leave this book reluctantly — glad to have been so enlightened and entertained."

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology, author of Flow

"Rather than following a wide swath of the twentieth-century intelligentsia in scorning the so-called bourgeois virtues of prudence, decency, hard work, fairness, and ingenuity, McCloskey lifts up these virtues and commends them for, on the whole, helping to create societies and persons that are more decent than they would otherwise be. McCloskey is a graceful writer and holds the reader's interest throughout."

Jean Bethke Elshtain, Political Science and School of Religion, University of Chicago

Front Flap

     For a century and a half the artists and intellectuals of Europe have scorned the bourgeoisie. And for two and a half millenia the philosophers and theologians of Europe have scorned the marketplace. Capitalism, the bourgeois life, Mencken's "booboisie," David Brooks's "bobos" — all have been, and still are, held responsible for financial and moral poverty, world wars, spiritual desuetude. Standing against centuries of such unexamined thinking is Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues, a magnum opus offering 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, sustaining the arguments with erudition and wit. 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 without ethical foundation.

     High Noon, van Gogh, Bill Murray, Immanuel Kant, the modern novel, and Samuelsonian economics all come into play in a book that can only be described as monumental, a life's work. The Bourgeois Virtues is a dazzling reinterpretation of Western intellectual history, a dead-serious yet open-minded reply to the critics of capitalism — and a surprising page-turner.

Deirdre McCloskey