The Natural Roots of Capitalism and Its Virtues and Values

Journal of Business Ethics 45 (4):387 - 401 (2003)
When we think of theories that attempt to root capitalism in nature, the one that comes most readily to mind is Social Darwinism. In this theory, nature - driven by Darwinian natural selection (the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest) - is interpreted to imply, when applied to human activities, that extreme competition will allow the most "fit" competitors to rise to the top and to survive in this "struggle for existence," and this process of dog-eat-dog competition leads to both material and social progress. Not only has this theory been shown to be seriously flawed, the putative social implications of Darwinian natural selection do not accord with the findings of contemporary neoDarwinists who maintain, for example, that the behavior of monkeys and apes reveals a blend of competition and cooperation and, generally, a close connection to human moral behavior. Adam Smith provides a more helpful view of the connection between nature and capitalism. He maintains that nature's wisdom, as seen in its harmony and balance, is displayed in economics and human nature. Competitive free enterprise, as a vehicle for exchange, functions within a cooperative context and exhibits virtues and values such as mutual help and benefit, trust, harmony, and friendship. I shall show that neoDarwinists agree with Smith's view that nature supports a connection between competition and cooperation, and they maintain that moral activity, rather than destructive dog-eat-dog competition, is necessary to achieve the goals of natural selection.
Keywords capitalism  division of labor  free enterprise  invisible hand  natural selection  nature  neoDarwinists  Social Darwinism  sympathy  wisdom of nature
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/25075080
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,974
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Rolston (1981). Values in Nature. Environmental Ethics 3 (2):113-128.
Iii Holmes Rolston (1981). Values in Nature. Environmental Ethics 3 (2):113-128.
Kari Väyrynen (2001). Virtue Ethics and the Material Values of Nature. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8 (2):137-148.
Richard Kraut (2007). Nature in Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):199-219.
Nathan Kowalsky (2006). Following Human Nature. Environmental Ethics 28 (2):165-183.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

25 ( #119,281 of 1,725,863 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #210,647 of 1,725,863 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.