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Review of Bourgeois Equality, Deirdre McCloskey, QJAE, Allen Mendenhall.pdf
Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics (2016)
  • Allen P Mendenhall
If it’s true that Wayne Booth inspired Deirdre McCloskey’s interest in the study of rhetoric, then it’s also true—happily, in my view—that McCloskey has refused to mimic Booth’s programmatic, formulaic methods and boorish insistence on prosaic succinctness. Bourgeois Equality is McCloskey’s third volume in a monumental trilogy that began with The Bourgeois Virtues (2006) and Bourgeois Dignity (2010), each published by the University of Chicago Press. This latest volume is a Big Book, alike in kind but not in theme to Jacques Barzun’sFrom Dawn to Decadence (2000), Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae (1990), or Herald Berman’s Law and Revolution(1983) and Law and Revolution II (2006). It’s meandering and personal, blending scholarship with an essayistic style that recalls Montaigne or Emerson. McCloskey’s elastic arguments are shaped by informal narrative and enlivened by her plain and playful voice. At times humorous, rambling, and deliberately erratic, she gives the distinct impression that she’s simply telling a story, one that happens to validate a thesis. She’s having fun. Imagine Phillip Lopate articulating economic history. McCloskey is, in this regard, a latter-day Edward Gibbon, adopting a mode and persona that’s currently unfashionable among mainstream historians, except that she’s more lighthearted than Gibbon, and unashamedly optimistic.
  • Austrian Economics,
  • Capitalism,
  • Intellectual History,
  • Free market,
  • libertarianism
Publication Date
Citation Information
Allen P Mendenhall. "Review of Bourgeois Equality, Deirdre McCloskey, QJAE, Allen Mendenhall.pdf" Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics Vol. 19 Iss. No. 2 (2016)
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