This conversation is closed.

Benard Mandeville

His epoch ( post Glorious Revolution, Walpole ) and now, tea party ethics so called capitalism and liberalism (in it's early meaning. I recently came upon his work but recognize his logic, often satire, but cutting through some deeper perceptions and think we should understand his view if we are to be capable of making the world truly better, an antidote to a certain kind of vacuous hopefulness. I propose no links in the hope of eliciting more pointed enquirey.

Closing Statement from wblakesx java

His main thesis is that the actions of men cannot be divided into lower and higher. The higher life of man is a mere fiction introduced by philosophers and rulers to simplify government and the relations of society. In fact, virtue (which he defined as "every performance by which man, contrary to the impulse of nature, should endeavour the benefit of others, or the conquest of his own passions, out of a rational ambition of being good") is actually detrimental to the state in its commercial and intellectual progress. This is because it is the vices (i.e., the self-regarding actions of men) which alone, by means of inventions and the circulation of capital (economics) in connection with luxurious living, stimulate society into action and progress

Mandeville concluded that vice, at variance with the "Christian virtues" of his time, was a necessary condition for economic prosperity. His viewpoint is more severe when juxtaposed to Adam Smith's. Both Smith and Mandeville believed that individuals’ collective actions bring about a public benefit.[8] However, what sets his philosophy apart from Smith’s is his catalyst to that public benefit. Smith believed in a virtuous self-interest which results in invisible cooperation. For the most part, Smith saw no need for a guide to garner that public benefit. On the other hand, Mandeville believed it was vicious greed which led to invisible cooperation if properly channelled. Mandeville’s qualification of proper channelling further parts his philosophy from Smith’s laissez-faire attitude. Essentially, Mandeville called for politicians to ensure that the passions of man would result in a public benefit. It was his stated belief in the Fable of the Bees that "Private Vices by the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits”.[9]

In the Fable he shows a society possessed of all the virtues "blest with content and honesty," falling into apathy and utterly paralyzed. The absence of self-love (cf. Hobbes) is the death of progress. The so-called higher virtues are mere hypocrisy, and arise from the selfish desire to be superior to the brutes. "The moral virtues are the political offspring which flattery begot upon pride." Similarly he arrives at the great paradox that "private vices are public benefits".[4]

Among other things, Mandeville argues that the basest and vilest behaviours produce positive economic effects. A libertine, for example, is a vicious character, and yet his spending will employ tailors, servants, perfumers, cooks, prostitutes. These persons, in turn, will employ bakers, carpenters, and the like. Therefore, the rapaciousness and violence of the base passions of the libertine benefit society in general.[citation needed] Similar satirical arguments were made by the Restoration and Augustan satirists

  • thumb
    Jun 5 2011: Uomo cattivo questo Mandeville. Public Vices, private virtues....his theory. The Fable of Bees is one of their most interesting pieces.