By Andrius Bielskis and Kelvin Knight
Interest in Aristotelianism and in virtue ethics has been growing for half a century, but as yet the strengths of the study of Aristotelian ethics in politics have not been matched in economics. This ground-breaking text, Virtue and Economy, fills that gap.
Challenging the premises of neoclassical economic theory, the contributors take issue with neoclassicism’s foundational separation of values from facts, with its treatment of preferences as given, and with its consequent refusal to reason about final ends. The contrary presupposition of this collection is that ethical reasoning about human ends is essential for any sustainable economy, and that reasoning about economic goods should therefore be informed by reasoning about what is humanly and commonly good.
Contributions critically engage with aspects of corporate capitalism, managerial power and neoliberal economic policy, and reflect on the recent financial crisis from the point of view of Aristotelian virtue ethics. Containing a new chapter by Alasdair MacIntyre, and deploying his arguments and conceptual scheme throughout, the book critically analyses the theoretical presuppositions and institutional reality of modern capitalism.
Some of these chapters were originally presented at the International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry conference ‘Virtue and Economic Crises’, which took place at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius in 2010.
Spencer J. Pack on Journal of the History of Economic Thought wrote:
"This collection of papers brings together a diverse range of critiques of economic theory and practice from the perspective of MacIntyrean virtue ethics. The collection is separated into three sections; however, there are two clear themes which shine through which evidently have intriguing overlap. The first of these themes is the relationship between the economy and social practices or what Alasdair MacIntyre calls external and internal goods, respectively. [...] The second theme is a critique of economic theory’s deployment of a model of instrumental rationality. [...] What appears to underline both strands of critique is an underlying endorsement of the ‘crowding out’ thesis: that once the possibility of economic gain is introduced to a social practice, all other ends become increasingly displaced by it. Sadly, this idea is not discussed, although perhaps its empirical nature places it beyond the scope of the volume."
Ricardo Crespo on Journal of Markets and Morality wrote:
"Readers of this book will find good, though repetitious, accounts of what may be called left-wing Aristotelian critiques of capitalism. [...] Most of the authors are content to give MacIntyre–Aristotelian-based criticisms. [...] Readers interested in Aristotelian criticisms of contemporary capitalism by political theorists and philosophers, and their groping attempts to radically reform or replace it, will find this book of interest. Those wishing to read what professional economists have recently written on this same topic may want to consult Ricardo Crespo (2013) and Spencer Pack (2010)."
"In the introductory chapter, Bielskis and Knight maintain that ethical reasoning about ends is essential to the economy. More specifically, the question is whether Aristotle’s teleological ethics is compatible with capitalism. The first chapter, by Alasdair MacIntyre, presents his clear position: the impossibility of conciliation between ethics and capitalism. For him, the academic teaching of ethics does not shape moral characters and constitutes a distraction from the real ethical problems of economic institutions. [...] The world of money, the measure of all things, is completely separated from an ethical ideal of life. A superficial bath of virtue ethics will not change things. The change needed is deep and will require a lot of time. [...] it is remarkable how many reflections, thought-provoking and useful for economic ideas, stem from MacIntyre’s thinking. This prompts me to suggest not only reading this book but also, even before, MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which is the root of these reflections."
Table of Contents
- Introduction (Andrius Bielskis, Kelvin Knight)
Part I - The Virtue Critique of Capitalist Economy
- The Irrelevance of Ethics (Alasdair Macintyre)
- Neoliberalism and its Threat to Moral Agency (Bob Brecher)
- Economics as Ethical Pre-condition of the Credit Crunch (William Dion and David Wilson)
- Is Aristotelian Capitalism Possible? (Rajeev Sehgal)
Part II - Polemicising the Critique
- Equality, Vulnerability and Independence (John O'Neill)
- No Place to Hide for the Mora Self: Bureaucratic Individualism and the Fate of Ethics in Modernity (Peter McMylor)
- Reappraising Neoliberalism: Homo Economicus, Practitioners and Practices (Andrius Bielskis, Kelvin Knight)
- The Great Perverting Transformation (Niko Noponen)
Part III - Alternatives to Capitalist Economy