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The Bourgeois Virtues

Ethics for an Age of Commerce
Narrated by: Marguerite Gavin
Length: 23 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Economics
4.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Summary

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 an audiobook 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, and a dead-serious reply to the critics of capitalism.

©2007 Deirdre N. McCloskey (P)2016 Gildan Media LLC

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Profile Image for Benzion N. Chinn
  • Benzion N. Chinn
  • 24-04-18

An Important Follow Up for Anyone Reading Ayn Rand

What other book might you compare The Bourgeois Virtues to and why?

What McCloskey offers is a virtue ethics defense of capitalism. This is very similar to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy in books such as Atlas Shrugged. The advantage of McCloskey is that she is able to capture the heroic nature of free enterprise without some of Rand's baggage. For example, when reading Atlas Shrugged it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the story is an apology for greed and being a sociopath. In truth, if you are paying attention, none of Rand's heroes are actually motivated by money or personal material benefit. Part of the problem is Rand's self-inflicted wound of praising "selfishness" even though, for her, that word means something very different from how it is usually used. Rand was an explicit virtue ethicist and saw capitalism as having an inherent moral value, regardless of its ability to improve anyone's life. Engaging in the process of market exchanges teach a person to not want something they have not earned. Furthermore, a person learns to value creativity in oneself as well as in other people.

For those intrigued by this model of capitalist virtue ethics, McCloskey offers a wider historical context for such a position. In contrast to Rand's atheist materialism, McCloskey connects capitalism to the "Christian" virtues of faith, hope, and charity as opposed to mere prudence. Just in case anyone is turned off by the Christian material in the book, there are also numerous references to Jewish sources.

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  • B. Wilson
  • 08-02-18

Great performance!

I mean the book is terrific, but the narration was incredible for a book like this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hyrum
  • 15-03-19

A Masterpiece on Virtue and Ethics

I began this book in 2018, and it is the most important book I read that year.

The author has a delightful style. Go to any location at random. Listen for five minutes, and you will find a sentence or insight that can only be described as delicious.

The book is simply and clearly organized, but it is dense. It is not a meal, but a cuisine that must be savored over time in many servings.The book reads as though the author has spent years lovingly and carefully collected index cards filled with insights and then carefully assembled them into a work of art. The works she cites are a reading list of the great, the good, and the wise.

Do not be confused by her advocacy of capitalism and free markets, powerful as that is. This is an introduction to ethics that is more complete, and more accessible than any other I have encountered. I could not listen without applying the virtues to my own life.

The audible version is the ideal introduction to this work as it's marvelous narrator turns a ponderous tome into a conversation with a friend.

I have many books on reading lists to be reread every year. This book is unique as I will be reading a chapter chosen at random every month. (Yes, I bought the print version as well).

The best analogy I can think of us to imagine a Michelangelo painted by a member of the Dutch school, where every brush stroke or sentence can be studied with a microscope. Your life will be richer. for having experienced this work of scholarship, art, and love.

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  • Gustavo
  • 31-08-18

Unbearable

I really wanted to know about bourgeois virtues, but this book feels like an aimless rant, it’s unbearable.

The narrator does a very annoying thing of prolonging the last word of sentences, which was very distracting.

I hoped this was a more objective account on bourgeois history. It seems odd that the three volumes are over 60 hours long.

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  • booklover
  • 14-03-18

I Can't Wait to Read the Other Volumes

Beautifully written, wonderful breadth and depth, narrator a pleasure to listen to. I can't wait for the rest of the series.