Households: On the Moral Architecture of the Economy


"What human purpose does an economy serve? In this pathbreaking book, William James Booth examines what he calls the moral architecture of the economy - its significance in our ethical world and the influence of social values on its institutions. Turning to the most fundamental economic unit, Booth explores three basic conceptions of the household - the Aristotelian, the classic liberal, and the Marxist. Booth first traces one tradition of domestic organization to the household or oikos of Aristotelian thought and explores its structure and its use as a counter to market society. He next considers the early modern liberal household as interpreted by Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Liberal economic and political theory, Booth shows, rejects the hierarchical pattern of the oikos in favor of a contract-based community among autonomous and equal persons. In classical liberalism the market thus emerges not so much as the most efficient instrument for creating wealth than as one expression in itself of this moral architecture. Booth then assesses the triumphs and debacles of Marx's critique of market society. The source of Marxism's theoretical and practical failures, he contends, was its fusion of the contradictory ideals of the Aristotelian "despotic" economy and liberal self-determination. In conclusion, Booth analyzes the enduring debate between the market and the household as ways of mapping rival visions of the moral architecture of the economy. Households makes a major contribution to our understanding of the role of the economy in society. It will be important reading for anyone interested in economic and political theory, moral philosophy, intellectual history, literary theory, and classics." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Ithaca, NY
Publication year:
  • 1993