The changing ethic of capitalism

In: Uncategorized

28 Apr 2008

Josie Appleton has a perceptive review of Benjamin Barber’s Consumed in the latest (April) spiked review of books. Rather than focus too closely on the book itself she looks at the changing ethic of capitalism. In broad terms her breakdown is the following:

* “The capitalist bookkeeper”. The model was Benjamin Franklin (18th century). Its chief theoritician was Max Weber in his Protestant Ethic (1910).

* “The counter-cultural ethic” of the 1920s and later the 1960s. Analysed by Daniel Bell in his Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976).

* “Infantalisation”. Posited as the ethic for 21st century capitalism by Barber. However, Appleton argues it is misleading to talk of an ethic of consumption and that Barber’s is a weaker book than Bell’s. Rather it has taken on a greater importance in society by default. She cites George Simmel in his Philosophy of Money as a useful theorist of consumption.

It is a useful complement to Dolan Cummings’ recent essay on contemporary anti-capitalism (see 9 March 2008 post) which also refers to Barber’s book.

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