Article ID: CBB001201899

Political Sociology in the Guise of Economics: J.M. Keynes and the Rentier (2013)


I see, therefore, the rentier aspect of capitalism as a transitional phase which will disappear when it has done its work. And with the disappearance of its rentier aspect much else in it besides will suffer a sea-change. It will be, moreover, a great advantage of the order of events which I am advocating that the euthanasia of the rentier, of the functionless investor, will be nothing sudden, merely a gradual but prolonged continuance of what we have seen recently in Great Britain, and will need no revolution.1 This is one of the most celebrated passages in the General Theory, recognised by many who otherwise have no knowledge of the book, if only because of the phrase's Stalinist implication. Furthermore, the argument of the General Theory is heavily dependent upon the existence of something Keynes called the rentier. Yet he used the word long before he wrote the General Theory, though at no time did he specifically define a `rentier' or give the word a fixed meaning. That can be inferred only from the context in which he employed it. Although the rentier in the General Theory is clearly meant to be an economic agent, even if one with no other function than to save and invest, he is in fact a product of Keynes as political sociologist and contemporary historian, one derived from Keynes's experience in Europe in the years immediately after the First World War. It is the argument of this article, therefore, that Keynes's `rentier' is a political-sociological construct (and a confused one), not essentially an economic one, and that this is how we should understand it.

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Authors & Contributors
Weber, Max
Hanke, Edith
Backhouse, Roger E.
Twiss, Travers
Dyer, Louis
Bonar, James
American Historical Review
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
British Journal for the History of Science
The Journal of Economic Perspectives
Verlag J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)
University of North Carolina Press
Presses Universitaires de France
Chinese University Press
Nordic Academic Press
Science and politics
Social sciences
Discipline formation
Academic disciplines
Weber, Max
Keynes, John Maynard, 1st Baron
Leme, Alberto Betim Paes
Cassirer, Ernst
Freud, Sigmund
Great Britain
United States
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, late
American Sociological Association

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