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« Microfoundations --- what parts of this narrative would you contest? | Main | Obamacare, Jobs, and Regime Uncertainty - Some Evidence »


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Unlike Pete, I've never had the opportunity of interacting with Peter Berger.

But I discovered his writings back in the 1970s and 1980s. He refined and applied in fascinating and extremely insightful ways the ideas of Max Weber and Alfred Schutz in his "The Social Construction of Reality." For anyone interested in the use and application of methodological subjectivism and individualism for understanding the social world, this book remains invaluable.

(I should mention that he also penned a fascinating short book on an introduction to sociology that, I'm sure, remains worth reading even after many decades. It is entitled, "Invitation to Sociology.")

But in addition, in the 1980s, Berger began to have "second thoughts" about the political economy of society. The end result of which was an important book, "The Capitalist Revolution." Berger questioned his own views on the nature of political regimes, the economic system, and the social order, in terms of man, his nature, and the incentives for action and productive effort in society.

He investigated the growing prosperity of what was then beginning to be called the "little tigers" of East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore), and contrasted it with the political economy of mainland China under a communist regime that was just starting to escape from its Maoist period.

He looked at the role of private property, the profit motive, place of the industrious entrepreneur, and the importance of freedom from overpowering government, and "rediscovered" the sociology as well as the political economy of the market order. An order that combined liberty with prosperity, and fostered a vibrant society and culture.

When Berger's book appeared in the 1980s, it was a time when socialism and planning were still considered workable and ethically superior ways of organizing society. Peter Berger helped put that belief to rest through a positive defense of market capitalism.

And I would be remiss if I did not also mention his 1984 book (co-authored with Brigitte Berger), "The War over the Family." It is a spirited defense of the "bourgeois" family, with many fascinating insights about the positive affects of 19th century capitalism in fostering a growing middle class that included both more wealth and culture; and its creation of something never known before -- "childhood," since parents now began to earn enough that children did not have to immediately enter the work force to support themselves.

I very much look forward to reading Peter Berger's autobiography.

Richard Ebeling

Peter Berger must deplore the way his work was appropriated by radicals in the 1970s and he would probbaly find Deirdre McCloskey's work on the bourgeoise virtues to be congenial.

Berger is someone to pay attention to. The Social Construction of Reality is not "constructivist," but subjectivist. It's essential reading, I think, for anyone who takes Austrian knowledge problems seriously. It is a shame that it has become a classic (and hence generally unread) work for the tradition of social constructionism. It seems as if no one paid attention when Berger and Luckmann said they were not taking a position on any "ancient philosophical preoccupations." Never mind what they actually wrote, let's go with what we wish they had written. :-/

BTW: Berger laudes two people for being exceptions to his otherwise negative experience with economists, Gustav Papanek and some guy named Peter Boettke.


Thanks for that mention --- the relevant discussion is Peter Berger, Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist (Promethus Books, 2011): 213ff, where he discusses his relationship with economists. It is an interesting discussion of what is, and what might not be, wrong with economics with respect to the other social sciences and the humanities.

As might be expected, I wholeheartedly endorse Richard Ebeling and Roger Koppl's comments on the fundamental importance of Berger's work.

I just want to offer a belated thanks for this post. I've ordered a copy of Berger's The Capitalist Revolution and have put his memoir on my wish list. It looks like some fascinating work and I can't wait to start reading.

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