The Economic Basis of Politics

1st Edition

Charles Beard

Routledge
Published March 31, 2002
Reference - 118 Pages
ISBN 9780765809322 - CAT# Y355049

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Summary

Economic interpretations of history are irrevocably identified with the name of Charles A. Beard. This is mainly due to his early book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913). Yet, in Beard's later work, The Economic Basis of Politics (1922), he articulates the main principles of his method and argues for its applicability to understanding of current events. In this brief survey of Western political philosophy and contemporary constitutional arrangements, Beard concludes that it is well established doctrine that "there is a vital relation between the forms of state and the distribution of property, revolutions in the state being usually the results of contests over property." In advancing this axiom, Beard responds to charges that he was a "Marxist" by constructing an interpretation of Western political philosophy and history that draws a firm distinction between his economic interpretation of history and Marx's historical materialism. Beard traces the origins of his own method to the works of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Harrington, Locke, and Montesquieu. This view of political theory and political theorists stands in sharp contrast to the view prevailing among many contemporary political philosophers, who insist that political theory must somehow transcend history and rise above ordinary politics to count as theory. Beard's observations on the nature and tradition of Western political philosophy provide an entrue into New World political thought, which many academic political philosophers have long regarded as something less than "political theory." In contrast, Beard regards the development and application of the method of economic interpretation to be the greatest contribution of American political thought to the tradition of Western political theory. In his surveys of thinkers such as Madison, Webster, and Calhoun, Beard links American political thought to the Western tradition of economic interpretation, which undergirds both "liberalism" and "republicanism." The present-day relevance of this important volume will be evident to all social scientists.

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