December, 2012

Talk Changes Things: The Implications of McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity for Historical Inquiry

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In The Bourgeois Dignity, Deirdre McCloskey asserts that although there were many reasons that have been posited for the rise of the bourgeois class and the tremendous increase in the world's standard of living that occurred during the Industrial Revolution, including the enlightenment and the Protestant ethic, something else was required. For her, that something else was a change in the esteem that was afforded to the bourgeois, to capitalists and to capitalism. The talk changed and a change in the talk was what ultimately changed things. In this article, we briefly explore and defend McCloskey's (2010) claim that a change in talk was at the root of the Industrial Revolution. Further, contrary to much of the literature on the relationship between discourse and social change which tends to focus on discourse as an artifact rather than a driver of change, we argue using examples from outside of economics and economic history that a change in talk not only tends to accompany but often precedes dramatic social transformation.

Read the full article at ScienceDirect