September 23, 1986
Up to now, only Marxists have attempted the comprehensive social – as distinct from purely economic – analysis capitalism demands. To help fill that gap, the world-renowned sociologist Peter Berger here provides a tough-minded, provocative analysis of how capitalism, as the great engine of change, has revolutionized modern life. Berger examines capitalism empirically, as it operates in the real world, not as its detractors or defenders would wish it to be. He thus lays the basis for a powerful – and testable – new theory of capitalism and the “economic culture” it creates. Written with wit and elegance, the book is punctuated with fifty propositions summarizing its main points and crystallizing the relationship of capitalism to fundamental human values.
Berger’s central theme is that the modern market economy we call capitalism transforms every other aspect of society. Drawing on his vast erudition and accurate observations, Berger shows that capitalism is the most successful economic mechanism ever devised for improving material standards of large numbers of people; that it produces a kind of society in which both privilege and prestige are basically grounded in economic achievement; and that, in the West, it is been casually connected with political democracy and individual autonomy. Turning to the Third World and, especially, East Asia, he shows that capitalism is not a mere by-product of specifically Western culture. Analyzing the advance socialist societies, he shows that inequality is an issue not of capitalism versus socialism but of modernization. In sum, Berger has written the rare book destined to shape debate for years to come.
Peter L. Berger is University Professor and Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University. His many books include the classic Invitation to Sociology.