THE MIND AND THE MARKET: Capitalism in Modern European Thought

Jerry Z. Muller, Author . Knopf $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-375-41411-4

Global markets destroy local cultures. Corporate greed breeds poverty wages. Slogans shouted at a demonstration against the World Trade Organization? Not exactly. As Catholic University history professor Muller argues, these were the concerns of European intellectuals as they witnessed the rise of modern capitalism. Even the market's great advocates, from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter, feared its effects, Muller says. The market promoted individual liberties, self-interest and wealth accumulation. But the market also threatened to unleash avarice, wreak havoc on traditions, and destroy any sense of the common good. In clear if not inspired prose, Muller provides trenchant analyses of obscure and well-known students of capitalism. None of his subjects was an economist narrowly defined; all were "moral philosophers" concerned with the orderly and positive development of human society and the efficient production and distribution of goods. Left and right, they shared many ideas. Few Americans have heard of Justus Möser, but his defense of fixed inequalities and locally based production contributed to a powerful conservative critique of capitalism. On towering figures like Smith and Marx, Muller manages to provide fresh insights, and the chapter on Hegel, a notably difficult philosopher, is remarkably lucid. Some of the later chapters are less compelling, and the author's conclusions are rather too restrained. He is content to delineate the "vital tensions" that have accompanied the rise of capitalism and refrains from openly championing the ideas of one or another of his intellectuals. Still, this study illuminates the long lineage of engagement with the social consequences of capitalism. (Nov. 18)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-0-307-42899-8
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Paperback - 487 pages - 978-0-385-72166-0
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