In principio era il Logos

Chi spiega la rivoluzione industriale di XVIII secolo in Europa, spiega molto dell’uomo perché, insieme con l’avvento dell’ homo sapiens e dell’agricoltura, si tratta forse del fenomeno più importante nella nostra storia materiale.

Deirdre McCloskey ci prova con una ponderosa opera in tre volumi: “Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World”, la tesi è semplice: si è trattato di una rivoluzione linguistica.

Ma leggiamo le sue parole esatte quando descrive il fattore decisivo di cambiamento…

… A big change in the common opinion about markets and innovation, I claim, caused the Industrial Revolution…

La dignità accordata al borghese, alla classe media, alla sua azione innovativa, ha fatto la differenza.

La “dignità” si conferisce grazie alla retorica, al linguaggio

… The cause, in other words, was language, that most human of our accomplishments…

Le cause finora proposte non sembrano tenere…

… The cause was not in the first instance an economic/ material change— not the rise of this or that class, or the flourishing of this or that trade, or the exploitation of this or that group…

D’altronde la storia si è incaricata di confutare i pessimisti che tentarono di infangare l’opera del borghese…

… The outcome has falsified the old prediction from the left that markets and innovation would make the working class miserable, or from the right that the material gains from industrialization would be offset by moral corruption

Una rassegna sulle false credenze intorno all’origine della modernità…

… People believe, for example, that imperialism explains European riches. Or they believe that markets and greed arrived recently. Or they believe that “capitalism” required a new class or a new self-consciousness about one’s class (as against a new rhetoric about what an old class did). Or they believe that economic events must be explained “ultimately,” and every single time, by material interests. Or they believe that it was trade unions and government protections that have elevated the working class. None of these is correct…

Le vittime della tesi proposta hanno nomi e cognomi illustri…

… The book tests the traditional stories against the actually-happened, setting aside the stories that in light of the recent findings of scientific history don’t seem to work very well. A surprisingly large number of the stories don’t. Not Karl Marx and his classes. Not Max Weber and his Protestants. Not Fernand Braudel and his Mafia-style capitalists. Not Douglass North and his institutions. Not the mathematical theories of endogenous growth and its capital accumulation. Not the left-wing’s theory of working-class struggle, or the right-wing’s theory of spiritual decline…

Il capitalismo – ovvero il sistema dell’innovazione – ha vinto quando l’innovatore è stato visto come un figo

… capitalism— or as I prefer to call it, “innovation”— is like Ralph’s Grocery in Garrison Keillor’s self-effacing little Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon: “pretty good.”…

E oggi? Oggi in buona parte di quella storia continua. Chiediamoci per un attimo in quale periodo storico stiamo vivendo…

… The Big Economic Story of our times has not been the Great Recession of 2007– 2009… The Big Economic Story of our own times is that the Chinese in 1978 and then the Indians in 1991 adopted liberal ideas in the economy, and came to attribute a dignity and a liberty to the bourgeoisie formerly denied. And then China and India exploded in economic growth…

No. Non il periodo della grande recessione ma in quello della grande uscita dalla povertà di una fetta imponente dell’umanità.

Per Joel Mokyr le idee sono centrali

… “economic change in all periods depends, more than most economists think, on what people believe.” The Big Story of the past two hundred years is the innovation after 1700 or 1800 around the North Sea, and recently in once poor places like Taiwan or Ireland…

Più importanti dei fattori materiali

… And contrary to the usual declarations of the economists since Adam Smith or Karl Marx, the Biggest Economic Story was not caused by trade or investment or exploitation. It was caused by ideas. The idea of bourgeois dignity and liberty…

Quando le virtù borghesi non prosperano, il capitalismo non decolla, anche in presenza di condizioni materiali favorevoli…

… When bourgeois virtues do not thrive, and especially when they are not admired by other classes and by their governments and by the bourgeoisie itself, the results are sad…

Il caso delle Bahamas: l’imprenditore è visto come un bandito, e lui si comporta come un bandito…

… Virgil Storr and Peter Boettke note about the Bahamas, “Virtually all models of success to be found in the Bahamas’ economic past have to be characterized as piratical,” with the result that entrepreneurs there “pursue ‘rents’ rather than [productive] profits….

L’egoismo non è la chiave per la prosperità: l’uomo è sempre stato egoista…

… Bernard Mandeville and Ivan Boesky got it wrong. Prudence is not the only virtue of an innovative society. People (not to speak of grass and bacteria and rats) have always been prudent, and there have always been greedy people among them unwilling to balance prudence with other virtues…

E l’innovazione ha sempre avuto i suoi “odiatori”: da Thomas Carlyle a Naomi Klein…

… Yet innovation, even in a proper system of the virtues, has continued to be scorned by many of our opinion makers now for a century and a half, from Thomas Carlyle to Naomi Klein…

Gli assunti materialisti incoraggiano quest’odio poiché si coniugano bene con l’efficientismo e lo sfruttamento…

… We will need to abandon the materialist premise that reshuffling and efficiency, or an exploitation of the poor, made the modern world…

Falsa la teoria dell’accumulamento di capitale, falsa la teoria dello sfruttamento del Terzo Mondo, falsa la teoria del commercio estero: molte volte si sono accumulati capitali ingenti, molte volte si è sfruttato il prossimo più debole, molte volte si è commerciato su larga scala… ma la Rivoluzione Industriale non c’è mai stata.

L’uomo è diventato ricco inventando delle cose nuove e ha inventato molto quando l’inventore è stato glorificato e ammirato. Invenzioni:

… cheap steel, electric lights, marine insurance, reinforced concrete, coffee shops, saw mills, newspapers, automatic looms, cheap paper, modern universities, the transistor, cheap porcelain, corporations, rolling mills, liberation for women, railways…

Anche la libertà non è da sopravvalutare. Il caso degli ebrei è un caso di libertà senza dignità, sappiamo come andò a finire…

… The history of the European Jews 1800 to 1945 exhibits the unhappy results of according legal liberty without also the dignity that protects and encourages liberty to innovate…

Non è nemmeno un mutamento nella natura dell’uomo: non sono i suoi occhi a cambiare ma gli occhi di chi lo guarda

… It’s not the “mind of the innovator” or his genes that changed but his (or in more cases than one might think, her) social standing and political liberty…

Eppure, c’è chi insiste molto sui mercati, sulla divisione del lavoro, e vede in questi fattori la fonte delle innovazioni… Sbagliato: sono cose che c’erano anche prima…

… Greg Clark, Jack Goldstone, Joel Mokyr, and I reply that, no, large trades were commonplace in the Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean for centuries before the stirring of Atlantic trade, yet resulted in no sustained industrial revolution… trade, which was routine in the Ottoman Empire, or coal, which was routine in China…

Difficile che chi scrive libri non creda almeno in parte al potere delle idee…

… I write books trying to change people’sminds. If we were consistent materialists we would put down our pens and start offering people large bribes to become liberals…

Obiezione: le idee seguono l’innovazione anziché precederla.

Un esempio del contrario: la Costituzione americana…

… The U.S. Constitution, for example, as the historian Bernard Bailyn argues, was a creative event in the realm of ideas— and its economic origins are easily exaggerated. “The Atlantic democratic revolutions of the later eighteenth century,” writes Jonathan Israel, “stemmed chiefly from a general shift in perceptions, ideas, and attitudes,” a “revolution of the mind…

Altro esempio del contrario: l’abolizione della schiavitù

… The abolition of slavery, a policy once advocated merely by a handful of radical churchmen (and the Baron de Montesquieu), played in the 1820s and 1830s a role in British politics, and later of course a much bigger role in American politics. It had less to do with the North’s material interests than with cheap printing… As Lincoln famously said on being introduced to the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!”…

Le idee contano anche in negativo: dalla guerra delle idee alla guerra materiale…

… Books can indeed make big wars; as another example, Erskine Childers’s spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service (1903), was no minor influence on the Anglo-German naval rivalry…. Various nationalisms had spread across Europe in reaction to Napoleon’s conquests, but then were matured in poetry and songs…

Serve una nuova economia che dia più peso alle idee dell’uomo, alla retorica, al linguaggio e meno agli incentivi materiali…

… humanomists believe that humans are motivated by more than incentives…

L’uomo non massimizza il profitto ma segue una passione.

La razionalità dell’uomo c’è sempre stata ma non ha mai fatto la differenza…

… Greg and I and Mokyr and Goldstone want economic historians, and especially economists, to stop claiming that rationality is new, or that activating it explains the modern world…

La rivoluzione capitalistica: perché in quel momento e in quel luogo?…

… Greg claims that Mokyr and I have “no account for why the Industrial Revolution waited so long.” Oh, yes we do. We say that social ideas changed in a thoroughly liberal direction for the first and only time in history during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, first in Holland, then in England and Pennsylvania, and then Massachusetts, Scotland, and the world. They changed for reasons that were sometimes material (London was unusually big and strong when the bumbling Stuarts came to the throne) and sometimes non-material (Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hume, and Smith lived and wrote as they did) and sometimes both (Protestant presses vied with Catholic ones for new readers)…

Perché sorsero nuove idee intorno all’uomo e si diffusero, non esiste una causa materiale, l’uomo è un essere libero: noi storici ed economisti possiamo solo limitarci a descrivere la situazione e a confutare le ipotesi alternative.

Il disappunto materialista è chiaro…

… Greg wants Mokyr and me to have a Deep Explanation for the liberal revolutions. He favors very long-run evolution, even genetics…

Tuttavia, bisogna rassegnarsi: è stato un accidente, un felice accidente.

Qualcuno obbietta: la Cina di oggi sembra priva delle autentiche virtù borghesi, eppure va alla grande come nazione capitalistica. Ma, si noti, anche nell’ Inghilterra dei primordi l’onestà non era moneta corrente…

… Greg Clark says that cheating in China means that the “bourgeois virtues” I touted in the book of the same name (2006) aren’t the ticket. But cheating was rampant in England in the early seventeenth century, as it is in most poor countries…

La letteratura rende bene il fenomeno…

… Look at the Bard’s obsession with dishonesty, in honest, honest Iago, say, or Falstaff’s robbery and exaggerations, or Shylock’s contract and Portia’s quibble…

Fu dopo che le cose cambiarono

… Late in the seventeenth century Quakers and other worthies drove dishonesty underground, and gave us the modern world. The very word “honesty” changed in meaning, from “aristocratically glorious” to “sober and truth-telling.”…

E poi si mantenga la prospettiva corretta: la Cina di oggi si è disincagliata ma la prosperità come la intendiamo noi è ancora lontana…

… To say that China is a counterexample because it “seems set soon to take its place among the developed countries” is strange. At a daily production of $ 13 a head (the United States now is at $ 130 a head), it’s going to be a long, long time before China looks “developed.”…

Inoltre, la Cina copia chi è più avanti di lei. Percorre un sentiero già battuto, in questo senso ha meno bisogno di innovare, la frontiera tecnologica è per lei di là da venire. Facciamo una predizione

… My prediction? Like Japan and Korea and the United States and England, a future China will get very rich when it gives up its rampant culture of “old fashioned greed”…

L’innovazione è cominciata quando gli innovatori, sentendosi ammirati, si appassionavano e discutevano tra loro i loro progetti, la presenza dei caffè è stata più importante della presenza di interessi egoistici…

… economists don’t acknowledge how productive it is to “discuss your creative interests with those around you” and to work so that “society encourages everyone to engage in their own personal process of creative development.”…

Caffè, giornali… e infine Parlamenti: il commercio delle idee espresse con passione conta più di quello delle merci.

L’economista dovrebbe traslare i suoi interessi per passare dal problema allocativo a quello creativo…

… project is to shift attention away from the allocative answers that economists love…towards the creative questions… I call it the Bourgeois Revaluation arising from a new Bourgeois Dignity and liberty, expressed as a change in the Bourgeois Virtues, and resulting in the Great Fact of wider scope for creativity in the Bourgeois Era…

SONY DSC

Annunci

Rispondi

Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Google+ photo

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Google+. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Connessione a %s...