I’m reading Robert Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”, which is a really interesting book. But there’s one feature of the book that I find interesting, his critique of capitalism. Nisbet says that capitalism led to an overly-individualistic society and the growth of capitalism was actually spurred by the growth of the state and the decline of guilds and other social institutions. Any thoughts about Nisbet’s analysis?
As a sociologist, Nisbet is using the term “capitalism” to refer to the historical system called capitalism. As economists, we use tend to use the “free market economy” or “unhampered market economy” as a synonym with “capitalism.” Nisbet is a champion of liberty and order, an order brought about without the state..
David Gordon lists Nisbet’s book as one of the 100 most important works on liberty:
For an account of how the free market emerged despite the regulations and restrictions of the guilds and without the backing of the state (which in most cases took the side of the guilds) see Rothbard’s History of Economic Thought Volume I, Chapters 7-11.