Bourgeois Dignity

An unusual feature of Deirdre McCloskey’s book, Bourgeois Dignity, is the chapter headings which provide a concise summary of the argument of the book. Few books have impressed me so much.

The volume contains 450 pages of text, so each chapter is roughly 10 pages long. In addition there are 42 pages of endnotes, 41 pages of references and a useful 37-page index.

You can read the entire first chapter (pp. 1-9) here. Below is the complete table of contents.

1   The Modern World Was an Economic Tide, But Did Not Have Economic Causes.
2   Liberal Ideas Caused the Innovation
3   And a New Rhetoric Protected the Ideas.   
4   Many Other Plausible Stories Don’t Work Very Well.   
5   The Correct Story Praises “Capitalism.”   
6   Modern Growth Was a Factor of at Least Sixteen.    
7   Increasing Scope, Not Pot-of-Pleasure “Happiness,” Is What Mattered,   
8   And the Poor Won.    
9   Creative Destruction Can Be Justified Therefore on Utilitarian Grounds.   
10   British Economists Did Not Recognize the Tide,   
11   But the Figures Tell.   
12   Britain’s (and Europe’s) Lead Was an Episode,    
13   And Followers Could Leap over Stages.    
14   The Tide Didn’t Happen because of Thrift;    
15   Capital Fundamentalism Is Wrong.    
16   A Rise of Greed or of a Protestant Ethic Didn’t Happen;
17   “Endless” Accumulation Does Not Typify the Modern World.   
18   Nor Was the Cause Original Accumulation or a Sin of Expropriation.   
19   Nor Was It Accumulation of Human Capital, Until Lately.    
20   Transport or Other Domestic Reshufflings Didn’t Cause It,   
21   Nor Geography, nor Natural Resources;   
22   Not Even Coal.    
23   Foreign Trade Was Not the Cause, Though World Prices Were a Context,   
24   And the Logic of Trade-as-an-Engine Is Dubious,   
25   And Even the Dynamic Effects of Trade Were Small.    
26   The Effects on Europe of the Slave Trade and British Imperialism Were Smaller Still,
27   And Other Exploitations, External or Internal, Were Equally Profitless to Ordinary Europeans.   
28   It Was Not the Sheer Quickening of Commerce    
29   Nor the Struggle over the Spoils.   
30   Eugenic Materialism Doesn’t Work;
31   Neo-Darwinism Doesn’t Compute;    
32   And Inheritance Fades.
33   Institutions Cannot Be Viewed Merely as Incentive-Providing Constraints,   
34   And So the Better Institutions, Such as Those Alleged for 1689, Don’t Explain,
35   And Anyway the Entire Absence of Property Is Not Relevant to the Place or Period   
36   And the Chronology of Property and Incentives Has Been Mismeasured,    
37   And So the Routine of Max U Doesn’t Work.
38   The Cause Was Not Science,   
39   But Bourgeois Dignity and Liberty Entwined with the Enlightenment.   
40   It Was Not Allocation:   
41   It Was Words.   
42   Dignity and Liberty for Ordinary People, in Short, Were the Greatest Externalities,
43   And the Model Can Be Formalized.   
44   Opposing the Bourgeoisie Hurts the Poor,    
45   And the Bourgeois Era Warrants Therefore Not Political or Environmental Pessimism   
46   But an Amiable, if Guarded, Optimism.   

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. vii-ix.


Tags: ,

Comments are closed.