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Utopia of Usurers by G. K. Chesterton
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Utopia of Usurers (1917)

by G. K. Chesterton

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Chesterton’s work presented here is an anthology. The first part is the Utopia criticism, and the second part is a series of published essays from the 1912-17 time frame. The parts deserve separate reviews.

Many have viewed Chesterton’s Utopia of Usurers as a criticism of capitalism. I can support that view, but must add two qualifications. Firstly the arguments presented deal mainly with political, social and even religious issues, not with economic ones. Secondly his target includes much more of the banking and financial side than we would usually associate with capitalism. From there, the reader must deal with the arguments presented in context; the context is that of emerging twentieth century government, the death of classical liberalism, and the early days of the struggle between individualism and the state. His critique is not so much against capitalism as it is against the modern age, particularly the rise of the Manchester school of industry, and the practices of the ‘new’ British oligarchs of industry. Holding those limits in mind, many of Chesterton’s observations do translate to current struggles, and most are told in his biting and witty style.

The other 18 articles are way too British to fit comfortably for the average American reader. Chesterton refers to events, politicians, and conditions in England of the Irish revolution and World War I. Nevertheless, despite the resulting obscurity, it contains the typical number of very sharp Chesterton observations. For example, during his discussion of the Free Will vs. determinism he notes that: “The question of Fate and Free Will can never attain to a conclusion, though it may attain to a conviction”; and “that working men…will soon be much too busy using their Free Will to stop to prove that they’ve got it”. In discussing the debate over restraint vs. punishment in criminology, Chesterton first calls for common sense and setting aside the formal studies, “which means going to sleep to a lullaby of long words” and using “our own brains a little”. He then concludes that “a man can be punished for a crime because he is born a citizen; while he can be constrained because he is born a slave.”

Only a true Chesterton fan will find most of the matter worth putting up with to gain a few pearls. And if you start reading Chesterton here you are not likely to ever become a fan. ( )
  ServusLibri | Nov 29, 2009 |
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The book contains a brief nine-chapter view of capoitalism and markets, along with 18 journalistic articles on aa wide variet of subjects. All were developed and published during World War I.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0971489432, Paperback)

An engaging work sure to appeal to both scholars and students for the depth of its thought and the freshness of its claims, this is a two-part book by one of the 20th century's greatest writers. The first part is a coherent analysis of the theory, effects, and claims of capitalism. The second is a lengthy collection of articles from Chesterton's vast journalistic output. The author challenges the fundamental tenets of capitalism without favoring socialism or Marxism by providing a philosophical analysis of the pitfalls, drawbacks, and falsehoods regarding capitalism and its inevitability. This is must reading for any serious investigation into anti-capitalist thought. It is also an exemplary text of how Christian principles and thinking apply to the socioeconomic world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

An engaging work sure to appeal to both scholars and students for the depth of its thought and the freshness of its claims, this is a two-part book by one of the 20th century's greatest writers. The first part is a coherent analysis of the theory, effects, and claims of capitalism. The second is a lengthy collection of articles from Chesterton's vast journalistic output. The author challenges the fundamental tenets of capitalism without favoring socialism or Marxism by providing a philosophical analysis of the pitfalls, drawbacks, and falsehoods regarding capitalism and its inevitability. This is must reading for any serious investigation into anti-capitalist thought. It is also an exemplary text of how Christian principles and thinking apply to the socioeconomic world.… (more)

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