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Return to Book Page. The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc ,. Robert A. Hilaire Belloc — was one of the most respected men of his day for his learning, insight, wit, and brilliant literary style.
Author of over a hundred books and articles, Belloc was a journalist, polemicist, social and political analyst, literary critic, poet, and novelist. The Servile State has endured as his most important political work. The effect of sociali Hilaire Belloc — was one of the most respected men of his day for his learning, insight, wit, and brilliant literary style.
The effect of socialist doctrine on capitalist society, Belloc wrote, is to produce a third thing different from either—the servile state, today commonly called the welfare state.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published October 1st by Liberty Fund Inc. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Servile State , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3.
Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Servile State. Nov 07, Joe Dantona rated it it was amazing Shelves: economics.
Hilaire Belloc offers us a concise history of economics in Europe generally, and the distributist and servile states specifically. He begins his exposition with a thesis as remarkable as it is shocking, "[T]hat industrial society as we know it will tend towards the re-establishment of slavery. The author moves on quickly to the general history of distributism through the two Christian millennia, especially up until the Reformation of the 16th Century.
It was here, Belloc maintains, at "the capital episode in the history of Christendom," that distributism was dismantled by the forced creation of capitalism. While Christianity had slowly pulled Europe out of the degrading slavery of the servile state, the Reformation, with its destruction of western unity, undid much or all of this progress. The distributist state did not fall of its own accord but was instead knocked down.
No longer do men as a rule own productive property and maintain their own livelihoods; instead, Belloc argues, the modern European and, I would interject, American is a wage-slave to a richer and more economically savvy capitalist. Not only this, but the various states, while attempting to wrench the proletariat from the grasp of the rich man, actually go leaps and bounds toward further entrenching him in the mires of slavery. The modern westerner's destiny is not usually in his hands but in the hands of his employer.
He is not a citizen so much as he is an employee. The two classes, created legislatively in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have solidified this process. Belloc variously argues that unemployment compensation and minimum wage laws reflect this servile status, and go to massive lengths to display that the employer is a greater man than his employee that, in fact, he is an owner and his employee a slave or at least a serf, though that terminology would never be accepted by society despite its accuracy.
Belloc goes on to prove that the socialist, communist and generally collectivist models will not only fail but will accidentally or intentionally, in certain cases create the servile state through concession and compromise. The motives of collectivists will lead them to the servile state necessarily. In cutting through this haze, it becomes obvious that there are only two solutions to the current state of things as socialism falls by the wayside as impossible : 1.
The stabilizing of the capitalist model by the creation of the servile state, in which the proletariat will lose their economic and political freedom in exchange for financial security, and the capitalist class will be guaranteed profit or 2. The restoration of well-distributed productive property among the masses.
While we are headed for the former, Belloc does not discount the possibility of the latter especially, in his time, in Ireland and France due to "a complex knot of forces underlying any nation once Christian; a smoldering of the old fires.
We have, in America, seen the dismantling of well-distributed productive property in the last century, through property taxes by which no one really owns, but only rents, property , the unfair tax dichotomy between rich and middle class, and the attempts through legislation to create an employer class and an employee class.
America's progress or regress has much mirrored Europe's, until recently, when much of Europe has ironically taken an about-face. Europe's old embers are stirring; the faith has declared a new evangelization, and the heartbeat of the continent seems to be reinvigorated. America continues down the well-trodden path of servility, with only a fraction of its citizens decrying the process and still fewer really understanding the system's failures.
How many today know the economic history of the West and much of the East , know its intimations and decay, its fall and possible future rise? Americans have taken a tense hold against each other, half for collectivism and half for libertarianism. But the defects of both models become apparent when examined historically and philosophically.
These are distressing signs, as the increased polarization of our nation gives way for government to make greater and greater strides towards the servile state, all the while aiming for something entirely different. Belloc holds hope despite the odds: "I am upon the whole hopeful that the faith will recover its intimate and guiding place in the heart of Europe, so I believe that this sinking back into our original paganism for the tendency to the servile state is nothing less will in due time be halted and reversed.
Videat Deus. Sep 28, D. Dutcher rated it liked it Shelves: nonfiction , politics , economics. It's hard to read, but there's some staggering insights here that shouldn't be ignored. The thesis is that Capitalist societies are transitional ones that are birthed not from the productivity gained from the Industrial Revolution, but from the redistribution of public wealth in England's case, seized church funds to a small cadre of owners. There's only three options: a slave state, a collectivist state, or a distributive state.
Belloc believes that the collectivist state is a natural progress It's hard to read, but there's some staggering insights here that shouldn't be ignored. The collectivist society becomes a servile one. Honestly, Belloc's prose style is tough to wade through, and I'm probably missing a lot. But the thesis is vital because eventually we must transition from capitalism. As in the analogy in the book The Lights in the Tunnel , a small amount of capitalists can't shine bright enough to light the tunnel of life as the proletariat dims.
We are seeing the end of productivity in creative destruction of jobs on a wide scale, and there are some eerie parallels to what Belloc writes and our current state.
Unfortunately the book offers no solution, but it's definitely an interesting, if hard to read view on the problems of capitalism. I enjoyed this book, which was in different measures confused and insightful. The difficulty is that when it was insightful, he would use his own peculiar definitions of terms e. Still, the game was worth the candle. Sep 16, Alexander Lynch rated it really liked it. The desperately needed correction on still widely held historical myths of the Medieval and Middle Ages periods, a critical assessment of the often ignored revolutionary economic effects of the Reformation, and a brilliant prediction the Keynesian globalist economic regime that won over its flip side of the same coin collectivist socialism.
Would have The desperately needed correction on still widely held historical myths of the Medieval and Middle Ages periods, a critical assessment of the often ignored revolutionary economic effects of the Reformation, and a brilliant prediction the Keynesian globalist economic regime that won over its flip side of the same coin collectivist socialism.
Would have given a fifth star if Belloc had been witty in his writing rather than so dry. Jun 23, Thomas rated it really liked it. Eye opening and useful, Belloc discusses the loss of freedom of the working man in both the Socialist and Capitalist system.
He shows, with many examples, the worker's loss of the means of production, primarily, the land; and how the means have been gobbled up by either the State or a privileged few. Interesting and informative read, check it out. Dec 21, Matt rated it liked it Shelves: political.
Belloc defined the servile state as "that arrangement of society in which so considerable a number of the families and individuals are constrained by positive law to labor for the advantage of other families and individuals as to stamp the whole community with the mark of such labor.
Go figure. Once I got passed that bit of partial self-in Belloc defined the servile state as "that arrangement of society in which so considerable a number of the families and individuals are constrained by positive law to labor for the advantage of other families and individuals as to stamp the whole community with the mark of such labor.
Once I got passed that bit of partial self-indulgence, I enjoyed the book much more. His basic premise is that Europe's pagan history took slavery, or the servile institution, for granted. Christianity changed that and created a society of relative equality--not egalitarian but not so iniquitous to bring about instability. As the capitalist state grew more perfect, it grew most unstable making the non-owner wage-laborers insecure and threatened with insufficiency.
Belloc proposes three possible solutions: 1 return to a more distributive society with diverse ownership; 2 collectivism; or 3 the servile state. Belloc is skeptical that the first could be achieved, and argues that an attempt at collectivism is doomed to fail and result in the third option, the servile state that borders on returning to something akin to slavery with complicity from the state that distinguishes between owners and workers the distinctions already baked in to things like workers' comp rules and agency, and since Belloc's time healthcare benefits.
Perhaps overstated, but what I can't tell is if capitalism appears to have corrected here and there in the century since this was written and to what extend collectivist programs also mitigated the rise of the servile state. Or whether the interplay between capitalism and collectivism has actually hastened the servile state.
The Servile State
In section one of the book, he defines capitalism in the following terms:. A society in which private property in land and capital, that is, the ownership and therefore the control of the means of production, is confined to some number of free citizens not large enough to determine the social mass of the state, while the rest have not such property and are therefore proletarian, we call capitalist. It is, however, necessary to meet Belloc on his own terms if we wish to understand what he is advocating. We might wish that he had used a different label for the thing that he is describing but we need to get beyond the label to the thing itself. He was writing in , five years before the Bolshevik Revolution would turn the theoretical idea into an all too real nightmare.
Mises Daily Articles
The Servile State is a book authored by Hilaire Belloc. The book is primarily a history of capitalism in Europe, and a repudiation of the convergence of big business with the state. Belloc lays out two alternatives: distributism and collectivism. This book lays out, in very broad outline, Belloc's version of European economic history, starting with ancient pagan states, in which slavery was critical to the economy, through the medieval Christendom process which transformed an economy based on serf labour in a state in which the property was well distributed, to 19th and 20th century capitalism.
The servile state