Private Vices, Public Benefits: Bernard Mandeville's Social and Political Thought (Revised Edition)
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This is a revised digital edition of:
Private Vices, Public Benefits: Bernard Mandeville's Social and Political Thought (Ideas in Context), Cambridge University Press, 1985.
This book examines the social and political thought of Bernard Mandeville, whose works, although notorious, had a significant impact on such thinkers as Voltaire, Hume, and Adam Smith. Professor Goldsmith sets out to show how Mandeville's views resulted from his rejection of the ideology of his time, which subordinated private interests to the claims of society or God. Instead, Mandeville proposed self-love as the mechanism of social development and attributed civilisation and the amenities of life to selfishness. Although he did not develop a theory of the free market, his views, by exalting 'private vices' and ridiculing the classical and aristocratic virtues, legitimated the pursuit of gain and the 'spirit of capitalism'.
just are to be made judges; the meek, eloquent and pious, divines; and ‘those that have neither Compassion, Conscience nor Honour’, lawyers, bankers and moneylenders.20 With the aid of ‘the wonderful Power of Political Wisdom’, which one might take for the attribute of such politicians, the vile ingredients supplied by human nature are concocted into ‘the wholesome Mixture of a well-order’d Society’.21 The skilful politicians, the ‘Lawgivers and other wise Men’, have been seconded by the
of affairs, making use of all the Cunning and Experience, as well as Diligence and Labour, of every Ofﬁcer in the civil Administration; and if he has but Money enough, and will employ Men to keep up a strict Correspondence in every Part of the Kingdom, he can remain ignorant of nothing; and there is hardly any Affair or Transaction, Civil or Military, Foreign or Domestick, which he will not be able greatly to inﬂuence, when he has a Mind, either to promote or obstruct it.90 Whig Government 103
satisfying wants is subordinated to the transformation of money into more money. ‘The circulation of money as capital is, on the contrary, an end in itself, for the expansion of value takes place only within this constantly renewed movement’ of money into commodities and back into money. The transformation of money into capital clearly requires a system of credit. Banks, stocks, and stock-markets are essential parts of the apparatus of even a moderately well-developed capitalist system.
without enjoying it, not doomed like the gold-hoarding miser, King Midas, to see everything turn to gold, but rather doomed to an endless treadmill of money-getting – doomed to see the world not as a sequence of delightful experiences but as a series of proﬁt-making transactions.18 Capitalism involves, then, both a system of institutions which promotes and encourages money-making and a mentality which regards continuous money-making as an acceptable way of life. Capitalism thus involves a ‘market
Society, ﬁfth series, 27 (1977), 41–68, esp. 49. Jeremy Collier, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (London, 1698). Charles Povey, A Discovery of Indirect Practices in the Coal Trade (London, 1700), esp. p. 45. For Povey’s activities as publicist, insurer and entrepreneur, see DNB. For Povey’s lament, see An Inquiry into the Miscarriages of the Last Four Years Reign (London, 1714). I have seen the sixth edition which offers to supply the pamphlets in quantity at a