The Servile State
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The Servile State

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  149 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953) 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 socialist...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1st 1977 by Liberty Fund Inc. (first published 1912)
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Joe Dantona
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." He does not hesitate to start his economic trek full-force and declares the subject of his book to be "that our free modern society in which the means of production are owned by a few being necessarily in...more
D.M. Dutcher (Sword Cross Rocket)
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...more
Josh
Let me preface this review by stating that I had been looking forward to reading this book for a very long time.

Now to the review:

I am astonished at how prophetic Belloc's insights are. As I was reading the book, I had a hard time believing it was originally published in 1913. His predictions are spot on to the ailments we are currently suffering from at the hands of the state. I found many of his points to be extremely helpful in understanding the socialist and capitalist models and some of the...more
Cris
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up the Servile State but I did not expect to be reading a book with such a historical background. Of course Belloc was well known for his love of history as well as for his poetry, (The Teddy Bears are having a picnic was Jackie Onasis' favorite children's poem). This book thus begins by a history of feaudalism and a clear and concise clarification of foundation economic terms, like capital and wealth in a more humanizing manner than we are used to...more
Erik
Nov 16, 2009 Erik marked it as to-read
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 12, as one of Ten Books by Hilaire Belloc Well Worth Reading.
Matt
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."

I found Belloc's historical explanation of the rise and fall of capitalism a little problematic; a Catholic with a French name blamed it on Protestant Brits. Go figure. Once I got passed that bit of partial self-in...more
Aaron
Feb 23, 2014 Aaron rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: capitalists, socialists
Apparently my reading has advanced beyond my mental capacity; either that, or I need to spend more time with a dictionary. This is the second book I've finished recently that I didn't entirely understand. However, I feel that in this case the book, written in 1913, suffers from some dated information as well as the notion that the author seems to be arguing for and against the same thing throughout the book. I feel as though Belloc sometimes places too many restrictions on his premises to struct...more
Matt Cavedon
Fantastic diagnosis, self-confessedly weak on solutions.
Christian Dibblee
I agree with Belloc's critique of capitalism...there are definitely two few capitalists. He also brings up a great point about an economic system being separated from underlying morals. But, Belloc turns to a distributist solution which would not work in the modern economy. In addition, he takes a view of capitalism as being intrinsically evil and unstable, and while it is imperfect, capitalism is not evil. I appreciated some of his criticisms, but generally speaking, Belloc is off base.
Dave
I think Hilair Belloc misses a beat in laying the blame for his Servile State at the feet of Protestantism and also the confusing use of the term "Capitalist" as was the flavor of his day on the surface made his argument less quick to grasp than it might otherwise but in the end he made a compelling observation for what was then a 'slippery slope' but is now merely politics as usual.
Brian
A little dated, but interesting nevertheless. Provides a fascinating history of slavery in the Classical world and its gradual evolution into serfdom, peasantry, and beyond.
C. Tilden
extremely prophetic. the high point is when Belloc shows how capitalism as an economic system is unstable and impossible to maintain in its true form. though it provides liberty, it is volatile and unsecure and will inevitably drift into an alternative system.
Steve
Stretches the historical record in some parts/some of his conclusions are based on readings of history that have been overturned (i.e. the reason for capitalism's rise), but overall a solid work of prophecy at modern times.
R
Jan 17, 2014 R rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: economics
Fascinating and prophetical. The more society moves away from practicing the Christian faith the more society moves towards a servile state. Evidence of this abounds.
Chris Hall
Interesting, but also quite dated. All I can say really.
Sean
A must read for would be "third way" types...
Kyle
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Sep 19, 2014
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Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc was an Anglo-French writer and historian who became a naturalised British subject in 1902. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, satirist, man of letters, and political activist. He is most notable for his Catholic faith, which had a strong impact on most of his works and his...more
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“If we do not restore the Institution of Property we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course.” 1 likes
“In the perfect Capitalist State there would be no food available for the non-owner save when he was actually engaged in Production, and that absurdity would, by quickly ending all human lives save those of the owners, put a term to the arrangement.” 0 likes
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