Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World, 1800 to the Present

Deirdre McCloskey

A Bourgeois Revaluation overtaking Holland and then Britain from Shakespeare’s time to Adam Smith made the modern world. The material changes—empire, trade—were shown in Bourgeois Dignity (2010) to be inadequate to explain the explosion of incomes 1800 to the present. What pushed the world into frenetic innovation were the slowly changing ideas 1600-1848 about the urban middle class and about their material and institutional innovations. A class long scorned by barons and bishops, and regulated into stagnation by its very own guilds and city councils and cozy monopolies, came to be treasured—at least by the standard of earlier, implacable scorn—first in Holland and then in Britain and then the wider world. With more or less good grace the people around the North Sea began to accept the Bourgeois Deal: Let me profit and I'll make you rich. Then people did so in Europe generally and its offshoots, and finally now in China and India. Most people, with the exception of the angry clerisy of artists and intellectuals (and even them only after 1848), stopped hating the bourgeoisie. That is, not economics but “humanomics” explains our riches.

Speaker: Deirdre McCloskey teaches economics, history, English, and communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A well-known economist and historian and rhetorician, she has written sixteen books and around 400 scholarly pieces on topics ranging from technical economics and statistics to transgender advocacy and the ethics of the bourgeois virtues. Her latest book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World is the second in a series of three on The Bourgeois Era. The first was The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, asking if a participant in a capitalist economy can still have an ethical life (briefly, yes). With Stephen Ziliak she wrote in 2008, The Cult of Statistical Significance, which criticizes the proliferation of tests of "significance."

Reception to follow, Weiser Dining Room, 1st Floor Ross

Event Details

Sponsor:
Department of Economics
Event Type:
Lecture / Discussion
Website:
http://www.lsa.umich.edu/econ
Tags:
economics ,
english ,
history

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