"The Spirit of Capitalism" answers a fundamental question of economics: what are the reasons (rather than just the conditions) for sustained economic growth? Liah Greenfeld focuses on the problem of motivation behind the epochal change in behavior, which from the sixteenth century on has reoriented one economy after another from subsistence to ...Read More"The Spirit of Capitalism" answers a fundamental question of economics: what are the reasons (rather than just the conditions) for sustained economic growth? Liah Greenfeld focuses on the problem of motivation behind the epochal change in behavior, which from the sixteenth century on has reoriented one economy after another from subsistence to profit, transforming the nature of economic activity. A detailed analysis of the development of economic consciousness in England, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States allows her to argue that the motivation behind the modern, growth-oriented economy was nationalism.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-10-08 Beginning in 15th-century northern Europe, unprecedented economic growth spread throughout the world, bringing with it nationalism, technological progress and rationalism in government, religion and justice, as well as eradication of traditional cultures, environmental damage, imperialism and wars of unparalleled destructiveness. Ever since, people have sought to explain these circumstances. Greenfeld (Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity) joins them here: her thesis is that unrelated historical accidents engendered nationalism in England, France, Germany, Japan and the United States (and almost in Holland), and that competitive nationalism caused sustained economic growth. To defend her proposal, she eschews both the historian's careful study of primary sources and the economist's insistence on rigorously testable models, claiming that both of these paths have led to error. Instead, she relies upon extended excerpts from secondary sources. Since her examples (the five modernizations and one failed modernization) are unrelated, the book consists of straightforward descriptions of each one rather than abstraction or parallels. This method produces a reader in early modernization with just enough theory to segue between the chapters. The obvious use for this book is for a freshman sociology course on the origins of the modern economy; those looking for groundbreaking analysis will be disappointed. Greenfeld's criticism of all aspects of the modern world, from diet to work habits to culture, will engage only readers who are already disgruntled. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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