The Culture of Prosperity

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Wolfgang Kasper examines The Culture of Prosperity while reviewing Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, comparing Clark’s lists of pre- and post-industrial vices and virtues to Jane Jacobs’ lists of cultural attributes for the guardian moral syndrome and the commercial moral syndrome (from her Systems of Survival):

To my mind, Jacobs’ list fully circumscribes the decisive cultural qualities that Clark keeps mentioning in his book. Anyone who has spent only a few days working in different cultures will realise how influential and pervasive these differing attitudes are. During three days’ work, say, in Shanghai, you will have had several discussions about moral principles and been asked numerous times for advice. During three days in Nairobi or Lima, you will have been informed repeatedly by the privileged that they expect donors to provide aid and that the condition of the country is the consequence of colonialism; you can also expect to come across some dishonest double-dealing. And everywhere you will probably observe some hair-raising maltreatment of machinery.

Table 1: Moral syndromes: guardian and commercial

(Hat tip to Arnold Kling.)

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