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The last 200 years have witnessed a 100-fold leap in well-being. Deirdre McCloskey argues that most people today are stunningly better off than their forbearers were in 1800, and that the rest of humanity will soon be. A purely materialist, incentivist view of economic change does not explain this leap. We have now the third in McCloskey's three-volume opus about how bourgeois values transformed Europe. Volume 3 nails the case for that transfiguration, telling us how aristocratic virtues of hierarchy were replaced by bourgeois virtues (more precisely, by attitudes toward virtues) that made it possible for ordinary folk with novel ideas to change the way people, farmed, manufactured, traveled, ruled themselves, and fought. It is a dramatic story, and joins a dramatic debate opened up by Thomas Piketty in his best-selling Capital in the 21st Century. McCloskey insists that economists are far too preoccupied by capital and saving, arguing against the position (of Piketty and most others) that capital induces a tendency to get more, that money reproduces itself, that riches are created from riches. Not so, our intrepid McCloskey shows. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, among the biggest wealth accumulators in our era, didn't get rich through the magic of compound interest on capital. They got rich through intellectual property, creating billions of dollars from virtually nothing. Capital was no more important an ingredient to the original Apple or Microsoft than cookies or cucumbers. The debate is between those who think riches are created from riches versus those who, with McCloskey, think riches are created from rags, between those who see profits as a generous return on capital, or profits coming from innovation that ultimately benefits us all.
In a book that looks at the birth of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, the author argues that economic change--including change today--depends less on foreign trade, investment or material causes and more on ideas and what people believe. By the author of The Bourgeois Virtues.
We have read the stories of those who have "crossed" lines of race and class and culture. But few have written of crossing—completely and entirely—the gender line. Crossing is the story of Deirdre McCloskey (formerly Donald), once a golden boy of conservative economics and a child of 1950s and 1960s privilege, and her dramatic and poignant journey to becoming a woman. McCloskey's account of her painstaking efforts to learn to "be a woman" unearth fundamental questions about gender and identity, and hatreds and anxieties, revealing surprising answers.
An insightful and passionately written book explaining why a return to Enlightenment ideals is good for the world "Beginning with the simple but fertile idea that people should not push other people around, Deirdre McCloskey presents an elegant defense of 'true liberalism' as opposed to its well-meaning rivals on the left and the right. Erudite, but marvelously accessible and written in a style that is at once colloquial and astringent."--Stanley Fish The greatest challenges facing humankind, according to Deirdre McCloskey, are poverty and tyranny, both of which hold people back. Arguing for a return to true liberal values, this engaging and accessible book develops, defends, and demonstrates how embracing the ideas first espoused by eighteenth-century philosophers like Locke, Smith, Voltaire, and Wollstonecraft is good for everyone. With her trademark wit and deep understanding, McCloskey shows how the adoption of Enlightenment ideals of liberalism has propelled the freedom and prosperity that define the quality of a full life. In her view, liberalism leads to equality, but equality does not necessarily lead to liberalism. Liberalism is an optimistic philosophy that depends on the power of rhetoric rather than coercion, and on ethics, free speech, and facts in order to thrive.
How standards of living have skyrocketed since 1800, and the political philosophy that made it possible: “Persuasive…richly detailed and erudite.”—Financial Times There’s little doubt that most humans today are better off than their forebears. Stunningly so, the economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey argues in this concluding volume of her trilogy celebrating the oft-derided virtues of the bourgeoisie. The poorest of humanity, McCloskey shows, will soon be joining the comparative riches of Japan and Sweden and Botswana. Why? Most economists—from Adam Smith and Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty—say the Great Enrichment since 1800 came from accumulated capital. McCloskey disagrees, fiercely. Our riches, she argues, were made not by piling brick on brick, bank balance on bank balance, but by piling idea on idea. Capital was necessary, but in the same way that oxygen is necessary for a fire. Nor were institutions the drivers: the World Bank orthodoxy of “add institutions and stir” hasn’t worked. McCloskey builds a powerful case for the initiating role of ideas—ideas for electric motors and free elections, of course, but more deeply the bizarre and liberal ideas of equal liberty and dignity for ordinary folk. Liberalism arose from theological and political revolutions in northwest Europe, yielding a unique respect for betterment and its practitioners, and upending ancient hierarchies. Commoners were encouraged to have a go, and the bourgeoisie took up the Bourgeois Deal, and we were all enriched. Few economists or historians write like McCloskey—her ability to invest the facts of economic history with the urgency of a novel, or of a leading case at law, is unmatched. She summarizes modern economics and modern economic history with verve and lucidity, yet sees through to the really big scientific conclusion. Not matter, but ideas. Big books don’t come any more ambitious, or captivating, than Bourgeois Equality.
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.
Is socialism desirable? Is it even possible? In this concise book, one of the world's leading political philosophers presents with clarity and wit a compelling moral case for socialism and argues that the obstacles in its way are exaggerated. There are times, G. A. Cohen notes, when we all behave like socialists. On a camping trip, for example, campers wouldn't dream of charging each other to use a soccer ball or for fish that they happened to catch. Campers do not give merely to get, but relate to each other in a spirit of equality and community. Would such socialist norms be desirable across society as a whole? Why not? Whole societies may differ from camping trips, but it is still attractive when people treat each other with the equal regard that such trips exhibit. But, however desirable it may be, many claim that socialism is impossible. Cohen writes that the biggest obstacle to socialism isn't, as often argued, intractable human selfishness--it's rather the lack of obvious means to harness the human generosity that is there. Lacking those means, we rely on the market. But there are many ways of confining the sway of the market: there are desirable changes that can move us toward a socialist society in which, to quote Albert Einstein, humanity has "overcome and advanced beyond the predatory stage of human development."
Deidre N. McCloskey's work in economics calls into question its reputation as "the dismal science". She writes with passion and an unusually wide scope, drawing on literature and intellectual history in exciting, if unorthodox, ways. In this pamphlet, McCloskey reveals what she sees as the secret sins of economics that no one will discuss - two sins that "cripple" economics as a "scientific enterprise."
What are the core values of liberalism, and how can they best be promoted? Liberals in the classical tradition championed individual freedom, limited government, and a capitalist economic system with strong rights to private property. Contemporary liberals, in contrast, embrace more egalitarian values and allow for a far more prominent role for government intervention in the market to reduce inequality, redistribute wealth, and regulate economic activity. What accounts for these very disparate liberal views of property rights and economic freedom? How should we understand the transition from the classical view of liberalism to its more egalitarian modern version? And what, ideally, should the relationship be between the central values of liberalism and the economic institutions of capitalism? The eleven essays in this volume address these questions and examine related issues.