The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph

The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph

The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph

The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph

Synopsis

In this volume, Albert Hirschman reconstructs the intellectual climate of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to illuminate the intricate ideological transformation that occurred, wherein the pursuit of material interests --so long condemned as the deadly sin of avarice --was assigned the role of containing the unruly and destructive passions of man. Hirschman here offers a new interpretation for the rise of capitalism, one that emphasizes the continuities between old and new, in contrast to the assumption of a sharp break that is a common feature of both Marxian and Weberian thinking. Among the insights presented here is the ironical finding that capitalism was originally supposed to accomplish exactly what was soon denounced as its worst feature: the repression of the passions in favor of the "harmless," if one-dimensional, interests of commercial life. To portray this lengthy ideological change as an endogenous process, Hirschman draws on the writings of a large number of thinkers, including Montesquieu, Sir James Steuart, and Adam Smith.

Excerpt

The answer lies not only in the recognition that Hirschman makes us see the ideological foundations of capitalism in a fresh way, but also in the remarkable fact that this freshness is derived from ideas that are more than two-hundred-years old. the basic hypothesis—the articulation and development of which . . .

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