Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Toynbee on the Passion for Wealth

 

“We must expect for a long time yet to see capitalists still striving to obtain the highest possible profits. But observe, that the passion for wealth is certainly in some senses new. It grew up very rapidly at the beginning of the present century; it was not so strong in the last century, when men were much more content to lead a quiet easy life of leisure. The change has really influenced the relations between men; but in the future it is quite possible that the scramble for wealth may grow less intense, and a change in the opposite direction take place.” — Arnold Toynbee (1852-1883), Lectures on The Industrial Revolution in England (1884)

Toynbee is described as an Economic Historian. He was an Oxford graduate. And no, he is not his nephew, Arnold Joseph Toynbee, who was a historian. The century he is speaking of was his own, the Nineteenth Century.

This quotation leads me to several observations:

  1. He must have missed the day his dons spoke about Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) who was so famously avaricious that after his death in battle his enemies allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to slake his thirst for wealth.
  2. It is difficult to say whether his prediction is as bad as it sounds, since the weasel words are strong in this one. Has “a long time yet” passed since whenever he was saying or writing this? He died in 1883, which was 137 years ago. Should Bill Gates and Warren Buffet exist? How about Jack Ma? Or are these gentlemen “less intense” than some of their predecessors, such as the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers? Or have things changed several times in the generations since? For instance, the 1960’s counterculture does not seem to have been in a scramble for wealth, but then the 1980’s came along.
  3. As usual with someone described in Wikipedia as “noted for his social commitment and desire to improve the living conditions of the working classes,” he has no notion of human nature and its permanence.

Ever run across something so egregiously bad that you have to go to Wolfgang Pauli’s “not even wrong” description? This one did it for me. He has so many weasel words that I can’t say that he’s wrong, I just suspect he will never be right.

What has brought you up short in this way?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    This is the Quote of the Day. We still have three openings this month: Aug 25, Aug 26, and Aug 28. Claim your own day here. Remember, you don’t have to be nice to the quoted individual or even to your fellow Ricochetoisie.

    • #1
    • August 24, 2020, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Richard Fulmer Member

    Arahant: He must have missed the day his dons spoke about Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) who was so famously avaricious that after his death in battle his enemies allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to slake his thirst for wealth.

    He also missed the Spanish conquest of Mexico and South America and their ravenous hunger for gold. Oh, and the English privateers that raided the Spanish treasure ships. Of course, the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs had a thing for gold as well. 

    • #2
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:00 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Richard Fulmer Member

    Arahant: What has brought you up short in this way?

    How about The Communist Manifesto? For example:

    The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left no other nexus between man and woman than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

    • #3
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Rodin Member

    Avariciousness is like fire — it’s size is proportionate to its fuel. An agrarian age had a different pace than the Industrial Age. The Digital Age has yet another. The agrarian overlords were not at leisure because they preferred it to activity, its that the results of activity were longer in gaining. Where the effort/reward cycle is shortened, those so inclined will push the pace for gain.

    • #4
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:11 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. KentForrester Moderator

    Arahant, now you’ve made me afraid of using weasel words in my own posts. I’ve never given much thought to my own weasel words. Now I’ll have to be super careful. You’ve taken the joy out of writing, because I know you’ll be out there lurking, just waiting pounce on a weasel word in my writing. Damn you, Arahant. 

    • #5
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:14 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    How about The Communist Manifesto? For example:

    Oh, yeah, that will do it every time.

    • #6
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant, now you’ve made me afraid of using weasel words in my own posts. I’ve never given much thought to my own weasel words. Now I’ll have to be super careful. You’ve taken the joy out of writing, because I know you’ll be out there lurking, just waiting pounce on a weasel word in my writing. Damn you, Arahant.

    I never critique a living author unless asked to do so.

    • #7
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. KentForrester Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant, now you’ve made me afraid of using weasel words in my own posts. I’ve never given much thought to my own weasel words. Now I’ll have to be super careful. You’ve taken the joy out of writing, because I know you’ll be out there lurking, just waiting pounce on a weasel word in my writing. Damn you, Arahant.

    I never critique a living author unless asked to do so.

    Oh don’t get all serious on me, ‘hant. 

    • #8
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:25 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant, now you’ve made me afraid of using weasel words in my own posts. I’ve never given much thought to my own weasel words. Now I’ll have to be super careful. You’ve taken the joy out of writing, because I know you’ll be out there lurking, just waiting pounce on a weasel word in my writing. Damn you, Arahant.

    I never critique a living author unless asked to do so.

    Oh don’t get all serious on me, ‘hant.

    …Except for behind his back. “Hey, did you see what Kent did this time…”

    • #9
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Arahant: He must have missed the day his dons spoke about Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) who was so famously avaricious that after his death in battle his enemies allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to slake his thirst for wealth.

    He also missed the Spanish conquest of Mexico and South America and their ravenous hunger for gold. Oh, and the English privateers that raided the Spanish treasure ships. Of course, the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs had a thing for gold as well.

    And the intense trade (and wealth accumulation in coinage) between continental Europe (as well as within it), Africa and the Middle East during medieval period. Trade which was so intense and vital to the economy that basically the entire structure of modern banking, beginning with bills of exchange and other credit transfer instruments, came into being.

    • #10
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    My God, dim wittedness (and anti-Semitism) must have been a family trait among these people.

    • #11
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:51 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    My God, dim wittedness (and anti-Semitism) must have been a family trait among these people.

    He was the second generation that was somewhat famous. You know his nephew in the third. Have you investigated the fourth generation? Or the fifth?

    • #12
    • August 24, 2020, at 7:56 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    My God, dim wittedness (and anti-Semitism) must have been a family trait among these people.

    He was the second generation that was somewhat famous. You know his nephew in the third. Have you investigated the fourth generation? Or the fifth?

    I know Polly and Philip just off the top of my head, who are about as craven and willfully ignorant as the rest of that lot.

    • #13
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Raymond de Roover could mop the floor with this guy. He also fails to account for the fact that before his century of “capitalists”, which really emerged from the stock exchanges and large scale trading houses of the 1600s, most people were spending their “quiet easy life of leisure” as serfs, subsistence farmers, cottage producers, and/or vassals. Even those that were privileged enough to receive some kind of training in the arts would spend a lifetime in service to a king or lord, or traveling to find different ones, and trying mightily not to peeve them off because they were the only ones with enough accumulated capital to purchase fine products. The advent of early modern/modern capitalism brought about a flourishing in new industries and jobs, culture (because mass production and greater expendable income meant that literacy was on the rise from the late 17th century onwards, at least), and free time which could be spent how the haver wished, instead of tilling his little side plot after spending all day on his lord’s fields.

    • #14
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    I knew you would appreciate this opportunity as soon as I saw this quotation.

    • #15
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I knew you would appreciate this opportunity as soon as I saw this quotation.

    You know me, and my numerous niche-y pet peeves, too well.

    • #16
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I knew you would appreciate this opportunity as soon as I saw this quotation.

    You know me, and my numerous niche-y pet peeves, too well.

    You could have volunteered for QotD today, and I would never have found this quotation. 😈

    • #17
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I knew you would appreciate this opportunity as soon as I saw this quotation.

    You know me, and my numerous niche-y pet peeves, too well.

    You could have volunteered for QotD today, and I would never have found this quotation. 😈

    Oh, sure. It’s all her fault.

    • #18
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):
    Oh, sure. It’s all her fault.

    You could have also stepped forward. You see what happens when you don’t? I get to choose the QotD. Do you really think that’s a good idea?

    • #19
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    • #20
    • August 24, 2020, at 8:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    Maybe you shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that. 😈

    • #21
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    Maybe you shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that. 😈

    Let’s see, how can I annoy @percival tomorrow?

     

    • #22
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. Richard Fulmer Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    Maybe you shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that. 😈

    Let’s see, how can I annoy @percival tomorrow?

    Slip fire ants in under his armor?

    • #23
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. RightAngles Member

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Arahant: He must have missed the day his dons spoke about Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) who was so famously avaricious that after his death in battle his enemies allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to slake his thirst for wealth.

    He also missed the Spanish conquest of Mexico and South America and their ravenous hunger for gold. Oh, and the English privateers that raided the Spanish treasure ships. Of course, the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs had a thing for gold as well.

    And the intense trade (and wealth accumulation in coinage) between continental Europe (as well as within it), Africa and the Middle East during medieval period. Trade which was so intense and vital to the economy that basically the entire structure of modern banking, beginning with bills of exchange and other credit transfer instruments, came into being.

    Yes, trade which gave rise to a merchant class, where before you were either a nobleman (oops sorry, nobleperson) or a serf living in a filthy squalid hut. 

    But I say that, while there of course is such a thing as greed and there are greedy people, the desire to have enough money to be comfortable and not have to worry all the time is not greed.

    • #24
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    I shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, but I’ll take tomorrow.

    • #25
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    I shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, but I’ll take tomorrow.

    Done. You’re on the list. Now, I just need Wednesday and Friday covered.

    • #26
    • August 24, 2020, at 9:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. TBA Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    Maybe you shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that. 😈

    Let’s see, how can I annoy @percival tomorrow?

    Weaselous pouncing comes to mind. 

    • #27
    • August 24, 2020, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Tomorrow and Tuesday are still open, after all. You don’t want me to have four days in a row, do you?

    Maybe you shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that. 😈

    Let’s see, how can I annoy @percival tomorrow?

    Weaselous pouncing comes to mind.

    He was going to do that anyway.

    • #28
    • August 24, 2020, at 3:54 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    He seems quite a young fellow to leave even a single famous quote. The quoted Toynbee apparently died at age 30.

    His comment about the striving for wealth isn’t necessarily as foolish as it seems. I don’t know the full context. If he was commenting on changes in England, he might be correct that the 18th Century was more characterized by a more leisured wealthy class (of landed aristocrats), while the late 19th Century was seeing something new to England.

    The OP and other comments are certainly correct that there are prior historical examples of extreme avarice, but this does not necessarily undermine Toynbee’s point, if he was talking about then-recent changes in English culture, which appears to be the case.

    • #29
    • August 24, 2020, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. TBA Coolidge

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    He seems quite a young fellow to leave even a single famous quote. The quoted Toynbee apparently died at age 30.

    His comment about the striving for wealth isn’t necessarily as foolish as it seems. I don’t know the full context. If he was commenting on changes in England, he might be correct that the 18th Century was more characterized by a more leisured wealthy class (of landed aristocrats), while the late 19th Century was seeing something new to England.

    The OP and other comments are certainly correct that there are prior historical examples of extreme avarice, but this does not necessarily undermine Toynbee’s point, if he was talking about then-recent changes in English culture, which appears to be the case.

    Even so, those landed gentlemen of leisure were soon undermined by upstarts of industry. 

    • #30
    • August 24, 2020, at 4:53 PM PDT
    • Like