History in Review
The Acquisitive Society
By R. H. Tawney. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 188.) ISBN: 0-486-43629-2.
Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - January 28, 2005
The Acquisitive Society is a compelling and remarkable book by Richard Henry Tawney that presents an almost utopian theory on how to create a just and equitable social and economic environment in which all economic inequalities would be eliminated. Tawney was an English economic historian and an expert on Capitalist theory. In this book he expounds upon his theory that acquisitiveness is morally wrong and that it has a deleterious effect on society. The key to ending economic inequality, in Tawney's view, is to spread the wealth evenly and eliminate the top-heavy capitalist model in which a few hold the wealth and power while those beneath them toil so that the wealthy can grow wealthier. The most practical means of spreading the wealth was, in his estimation, the imposition of an income limit on all individuals.
Tawney's socialist utopia was one based on a strong ethical and moral foundation and his theory is as pertinent today as it was in 1920 when this book was first published. Many of his ideas and social theories were later to be adopted. For example his advocacy for the need of a system of universal secondary education came to fruition in the form of England's 1944 Education Act. Tawney was a humanist and social advocate whose work, is far too often overlooked today. The Acquisitive Society as well as many of Tawney's other books such as Religion and the Rise of Capitalism and Equality should be read by every historian, social activist, economist, and politician, and which should be required reading in schools - both as works of historical significance and for their advocacy of social justice.
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An introductory college-level survey course on modern world history and international relations.
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