Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Servile State” as Want to Read:
The Servile State
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Servile State

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  247 Ratings  ·  27 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
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1st 1977 by Liberty Fund Inc. (first published 1912)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Servile State, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Servile State

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Joe Dantona
Nov 07, 2011 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." 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
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
Douglas Wilson
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
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.g. capitalism), and when it was confused, he would apply critiques to socialism that applied equally well to his distributism. Still, the game was worth the candle.
Dec 21, 2013 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."

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
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Tyler Hochstetler
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The central theme of this book is that capitalism inevitably moves towards a welfare state by the enslavement of the masses, who own no property (thereby the means of production), to a massive economic machine with no boundaries for its ever extending reaches.
Nov 16, 2009 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.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
I did not think the thesis was very well argued, and I ended up not getting very much out of the book. I'm a bit curious what Belloc would judge to have occurred since this was published.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Belloc has an interesting perspective on the evolution of capitalism from yeoman small-scale farmers to modern industrialism. He claims that while a handful of elites hold the means of production (and thus control the economy) and enjoy increasing wealth, they have to use the state to buy the acquiescence of the working class, who, lacking economic independence, are no better than slaves. This makes citizenship nearly impossible (hence the "servile state"). He traces the history back through the ...more
Fr. Peter Mottola
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Belloc traces the influence of Christianity on society, articulating a narrative of the way in which Catholic principles slowly eliminated slavery from society, and warning that the abandonment of those principles will lead to (or, viewed now from a century later, has already led to the beginning of?) a State in which there are two legally separate ranks of persons, viz. 'masters' (read: employers) and 'servants' (employees). He explains that capitalism, because of its instability, inevitably tr ...more
Manuel Alfonseca
May 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Like many works that aim to predict the future, this book is now outdated. Not only because the Russian revolution had not yet happened (it was written several years before), but because the evolution of capitalism, as Belloc saw it, has not taken place along the lines he foresaw.

Belloc saw capitalism evolving towards a situation where the state would guarantee some rights to the proletariat, in exchange for their renunciation to the power of refusing to work (going on strike) and their becoming
Pedro Rocha
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book from a man who, alone, could fill a library.
This time, the one where the Distributist basis is set up.
The alternative to Capitalism and Socialism.
Some of the Capitalism critiques are now outdated or unsignificant. However, the main point stands. An alternative is needed, and the world can only do two ways. The easiest alternative to Capitalism as proved itself to be worse than the problem (and it should be noted that this book was written in 1912, and since then we have seen even more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Primarily a critique of industrial capitalism. Very thought-provoking and suggests a social reality far different from the usual economic narrative that presents capitalism and socialism as opposing forces. Belloc maintains that capitalism must logically proceed to a state of society in which the masses of proletarian wage-earners will become subject to compulsory labour (for a handful of property owners) mandated by positive law in exchange for "security" and "sufficiency." This is the "Servile ...more
Christian Dibblee
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
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.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Helen San
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Most insightful and eye-opening piece of socio-econo-political writing I've ever read. It's the best argument against capitalism and socialism I've ever seen. After you read this book, you will be able to see all human beings as politically free and equal, instead of divided into two classes: owners and nonowners.
Andy Ward
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Interesting book on economic changes in Britain but it seemed like he was writing about modern America most of the time. Also, the author shares many of the issues with capitalism and how it leads to socialism and then, the servile state.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the original defence of distributism by Belloc. It is flawed in many places, but it still contains much that will help us think about the great economical questions.
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A must read for would be "third way" types...
Matt Cavedon
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic diagnosis, self-confessedly weak on solutions.
Chris Hall
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting, but also quite dated. All I can say really.
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Tim and Victoria Cronin
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Listened to audio
rated it it was amazing
Apr 11, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Jun 08, 2016
E.H.  Holguin
rated it liked it
Mar 04, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Outline of Sanity
  • Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More
  • Rerum Novarum: On The Condition Of Working Classes
  • Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered
  • The Meaning of Conservatism
  • The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot
  • Art and Scholasticism With Other Essays
  • Fire in the Minds of Men
  • The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society
  • Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life
  • What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense
  • Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays
  • Transformation in Christ
  • Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy
  • The Quest For Community: A Study In The Ethics Of Order And Freedom (Ics Series In Self Governance)
  • The Idea of a University
  • Democracy--The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order
  • Solomon Among the Postmoderns
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
More about Hilaire Belloc...

Share This Book

“If we do not restore the Institution of Property we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course.” 4 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.” 3 likes
More quotes…