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The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce
The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce
Deirdre N. McCloskey
University Of Chicago Press, 2007
634 pp., $22.50

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Eugene McCarraher


Break on Through to the Other Side

Deirdre McCloskey's Bobo Theodicy.

I hate the middle class. I am a snob and an ingrate, an erudite ignoramus unappreciative of the market that puts food on my table and books on my shelves. I and my left-wing ilk are responsible for at least one global war, the persistence of poverty and despair among the wretched of the earth, and a culture that maligns the genuine virtue of hard-working entrepreneurs. I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself, and I should run to the nearest small business and beg for forgiveness and instruction. I should get a real job.

In short, Deirdre McCloskey has exposed me for the fraud that I am—or so she tells me in The Bourgeois Virtues. We lefties have endured quite a lot of disappointment over the last three gilded decades: the pyrrhic victory of global capitalism; the near-erasure of serious critical voices from the broadcast media; the erosion of unions and the welfare state; the enormous expansion of corporate power, and the attendant shrinking of the political imagination; the elevation of the Marketplace into the ontological sublime, the anointment of trucking and bartering as the telos of humankind. All of that is quite enough History, thank you very much. But to be told that we represent "the high orthodoxy of the West" and that now it's "time to listen to the other side"? Where has McCloskey been for the last twenty-odd years? We've been hearing "the other side" for two centuries, and in the last generation it's been 24-7 about Business, Business, Business. The Other Side is advertising, public relations, the plague of twaddle from pompous moneybags like Welch, Buffett, and Trump. It's the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Economist, and Business Week; it's management-speak, the financial news, and the stream of stock prices that frame every image on MSNBC. It's the students who tell me that accounting class is more valuable than poetry. The other side. Give us a break.

Declaring one's bold rejection of Conventional Wisdom is a standard move in branding ...

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