By R.H. Tawney

The Acquisitive Society, by R.H. Tawney

The Acquisitive Society, written by a distinguished social and economic historian, examines the role of religion in the rise of capitalism. Arguing that material acquisitiveness is morally wrong and a corrupting social influence, the author draws upon his profound knowledge of labor and politics to show how concentrated wealth distorts economic policies. Colorful but credible, this study offers a timeless vision of alternative means toward a just economic, social, and intellectual order.

About R.H. Tawney

R.H. TawneyRichard Henry Tawney (1880 – 1962) was an English writer, economist, historian, social critic and university professor and a leading advocate of Christian Socialism.

Table of Contents of The Acquisitive Society

  1. Introductory
  2. Rights and Functions
  3. The Acquisitive Society
  4. The Nemesis of Industrialism
  5. Property and Creative Work
  6. The Functional Society
  7. Industry as a Profession
  8. The 'Vicious Cycle'
  9. The Condition of Efficiency
  10. The Position of the Brain Worker
  11. Porro Unum Necessarium
Reviews:Sam Pizzigati on Too Much (A Commentary on Excess and Inequality) wrote:

"Back in the 1930s, a University of Chicago project set out to list the '72 Great Books of Western Civilization.' Only one book by an author then living made the cut. That one book, The Acquisitive Society by the British academic R.H. Tawney, seldom gets much attention today. A shame. This slim volume, published in 1920, may just be the finest book on economic inequality ever written. In these Great Recession times, Tawney’s masterpiece merits a second look."

Sheldon Ztvordokov on History in Review wrote:

"The Acquisitive Society is a compelling and remarkable book by Richard Henry Tawney that presents an almost utopian theory on how to create a just and equitable social and economic environment in which all economic inequalities would be eliminated. Tawney was an English economic historian and an expert on Capitalist theory. In this book he expounds upon his theory that acquisitiveness is morally wrong and that it has a deleterious effect on society. The key to ending economic inequality, in Tawney's view, is to spread the wealth evenly and eliminate the top-heavy capitalist model in which a few hold the wealth and power while those beneath them toil so that the wealthy can grow wealthier. The most practical means of spreading the wealth was, in his estimation, the imposition of an income limit on all individuals. Tawney's socialist utopia was one based on a strong ethical and moral foundation and his theory is as pertinent today as it was in 1920 when this book was first published. Many of his ideas and social theories were later to be adopted. [...] Tawney was a humanist and social advocate whose work, is far too often overlooked today. The Acquisitive Society as well as many of Tawney's other books such as Religion and the Rise of Capitalism and Equality should be read by every historian, social activist, economist, and politician, and which should be required reading in schools - both as works of historical significance and for their advocacy of social justice."

Read More on Tawney and The Acquisitive Society

  • The Moral EconomistsTim Rogan (2017). The Moral Economists; R.H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson, and the Critique of Capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. From the cover: What’s wrong with capitalism? Answers to that question today focus on material inequality. Led by economists and conducted in utilitarian terms, the critique of capitalism in the twenty-first century is primarily concerned with disparities in income and wealth. It was not always so. The Moral Economists reconstructs another critical tradition, developed across the twentieth century in Britain, in which material deprivation was less important than moral or spiritual desolation. [...] Examining the moral cornerstones of a twentieth-century critique of capitalism, The Moral Economists explains why this critique fell into disuse, and how it might be reformulated for the twenty-first century.
  • Ben Clift & Jim Tomlinson (2002). "Tawney and the third way", in: Journal of Political Ideologies, 7:3, 315-331, DOI: 10.1080/1356931022000010593. Abstract: From the 1920s to the 1950s R.H. Tawney was the most influential socialist thinker in Britain. He articulated an ethical socialism at odds with powerful statist and mechanistic traditions in British socialist thinking. Tawney's work is thus an important antecedent to third way thinking. Tawney's religiously-based critique of the morality of capitalism was combined with a concern for detailed institutional reform, challenging simple dichotomies between public and private ownership. He began a debate about democratizing the enterprise and corporate governance though his efforts fell on stony ground. Conversely, Tawney's moralism informed a whole-hearted condemnation of market forces in tension with both his concern with institutional reform and modern third way thought. Unfortunately, he refused to engage seriously with emergent welfare economics which for many social democrats promised a more nuanced understanding of the limits of market forces. Tawney's legacy is a complex one, whose various elements form a vital part of the intellectual background to current third way thinking.