Desire, utility and virtue: formation of modern work idea. Fernando Diez. 2001. Península, Barcelona., pp. 303, CCCIII. ISBN 84-8307-329-3


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Vol. 8 Nº 2 págs. 423-425. 2010

Reseñas de publicaciones

Desire, utility and virtue: formation of modern work idea
Fernando Diez. 2001. Península, Barcelona., pp. 303, CCCIII.
ISBN 84-8307-329-3

Maximiliano Korstanje

The following review is intended to dis- endowed with decoration that highlights a
cuss in detail a book authored by Fernando high level of purchasing power or
consumpDiez relating to the formation of the mod- tion. Under such a circumstance, many
ern thought about work and luxury. Pub- scholars argued that tourism contrasts
lished initially in the year 2001 by Editori- more and more in tourist-generating and
al Peninsula, this work focuses on the in- tourist-receiving countries. By the way,
ception of natural economy and wealthy economic imbalances are one of more
imdistribution in nation states. From an his- portant factors to keep in mind how
contorical perspective, Díez creates a concep- flicts between hosts and guests surface.
tual frame between mercantilism and illu- Divided only in five chapters, Desire,
stration. Albeit we are aware about the Utility and Virtue emphasizes that modern
limitation to review a text 8 years older idea of work is enrooted in the belief what
than standardized reviews, but since in people accomplish had a reward or
puphilosophical literature the attention given nishment in this life. That way, in a world
to the history of economy is low, we think characterized by religiosity medieval
that our efforts are worth. In recent years, thought encourages that austerity and
many scholars in tourism academy referred work transformed in vehicles towards the
to tourism as an expression of leisure and virtue. On the introductory chapter, author
luxury but the reminiscences of both phe- describes as to how the conformation of
nomenons in these studies still remain un- work comes from Mercantilist tradition in
der-explored. Anyone who entered in the hands of scholars such as A. Muñoz and
field work at a hotel will realize tourism is Genovesi. In regards to this issue, Díez
invested by luxurious and golden decora- contends that productive work as known
tion at rooms and other parts of establish- today was a construal surged a mid of
cenment. Luxury of course represents for tour- turies XVI and XVII respectively. It is
funism a valuable ally to emulate the “lost damental to know how political discourse
paradise”. and economy have historically converged in
Basically, popular wisdom valorizes the the discourse of humanism. The wealth of
idea that tourism in industrialized societies nations was considered the only pathway to
often is associated with luxury and status denote the boundaries between a civilized
tourists emulate. It is not surprising that or uncivilized society. In foregrounding,
architectonic buildings in this industry are development was a term associated to
rich© PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural. ISSN 1695-7121 424 Desire, utility and virtue: formation of modern work idea

ness as well as poverty to laziness (Díez, mercantilism arose in a system that
com2001:28). bined limits in the wages with a declination
The possibility to satisfy human necessi- in conditions of subsistence. Furniss and
ties regarding the value of goods was one of Hecksher suggested an interesting but
unthe remarkable formulas that mercantilism ethical thesis: a worker embedded in a
encouraged in Europe. For that instance, lump of material deprivations was more
professions played a pivotal role in the so- fruitful for societal purposes than a handful
cial imaginary and also they were classified of organized workers who can constantly
two-fold: productive and unproductive. The fight by their rights promoting high degree
process of civilization should purify the of inflation. Under this point of view,
maunproductive occupations and increases terial improvement for working class
efficiency in the productive proccess. For should be a self-defeating issue.
Supposithe scholars of this century, arguably the tions of this caliber are also based on two
work will be supported in accordance to the clear doctrines: at a first instance, costs of
production ways following the criteria that subsistence determine the line in which
circumscribes production to an internation- should be fixed the salaries; secondly,
highal division of labor. In such a process, social er wages generate a rise in added value in
relationships should be ruled by the search goods and inflation. Ultimately, things
of surplus and wealth which were feasible come worse to worst because lesser salaries
with means of the intervention of Govern- shape a much more lucrative society.
ment upon workers. The process of work After further examination, Diez argues
can be encompassed in three stages, pro- that “the goal of poverty encompasses the
duction, accumulation and utility. subordinate role that plays humankind in
The odds in satisfying the needs of popu- national prosperity. Workers are needed to
lation were inextricably linked to the worth work always in order for them to satisfy
of merchandises in the market. Not only their necessities because of simplicity and
the concept of neat product was new for ignorance” (ibid: 99). If we take from the
academicians of this period but also had no basis, that all workers had satisfied their
precedent in other past times. For that basic and superior necessities, they will
reason, the term work gradually is being have any motivation to work harder.
appraised as positive and abandons the Mandeville focuses his analysis in the
luxpejorative conditions it had; at the same ury and consumption into a similar
pathtime, the richness became strategically in a way. For him, private vicious or bad habits
new way of intellectualizing the economy. not only impact directly towards economy
It is strongly important to denote that con- but also merit an immediate intervention of
spicuous consumption should be rejected States. It may seem odd that Mandeville
since it encouraged the laziness and social argues individual actions in the sphere of
fragmentation. working have to be oriented to motivate the
In turn, for physiocratics surplus should self-conservation of worker. Sentiments
be deemed as a balance resulted from in- like “pride” leads lay-people into ambition,
comes and expenditures that a society ex- hedonism and luxury going too far from an
periences after a period of time. Following efficient production.
this, the main thesis was in XVIII century Like in Mandeville in many others
schoEuropean scholars consolidated a new form lars else, the virtue played a crucial role in
of thinking that stressed in production as a increasing and improving the labor
propenform of alleviating poverty and gaining sity while luxury elicited social
fragmentaemancipation for people. Like a new moral tion. Consistent with this reasoning, the
doctrine (part of ethic) leisure was put un- paradox was that the State had to repress
der the lens of scrutiny. Ethically, the va- luxury in popular classes. In sharp contrast
grancy, idleness and inactivity were se- with Furniss and Hecksher, for Mandeville
riously penalized by the law in Europe be- the consumption constraint must not be
cause of illuminist influences the poverty applied on whole of society but just on
mawas considered as a result of inactivity. nual workers. This reminded that even
As the previous argument given, in though leisure works by alienating
humansecond chapter Diez explains as to how kind in respect with the hard-working
maPASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 8(2). 2010 ISSN 1695-7121

Maximiliano Korstanje 425

nual class due to ignorance and excess, once again throughout the book, Diez
reMercantilism argues that the luxury was minds that development and richness
alan indispensable prerequisite to accomplish lowed humanity a privileged site in the
the goals of an efficient production and continuous search for utility. Luxury and
paved the pathways towards development consumption determined the modern styles
and betterness emphasizing on the happi- of production not only in Europe but also in
ness is based selectively depending on the the rest of industrialized countries. The
class subject dwell on (classism). upshot for Desire, Utility and Virtue is that
In Hume for example, the luxury takes modern luxury, leisure and education
coman implicit negation for Mandeville´s post- prised the necessary platform toward the
ure. The concept of the luxury for public present style of mass-consumption that
prosperity does not provoke bad habits, but characterizes the post-modernity.
Typicalin a virtues of the commercial company. ly, the spirit of modern work looks to be
The luxury is not a useless custom, but an based on a previous historical background
innocent phenomenon which accompanies in mercantilism and iluminism. Both very
with the refined societies (ibid: 133). As well precede in the thread of history in
whole, the thesis of Hume is followed by modern leisure and tourism. In a context
certain Catholic Church sectors which in where consumption is under debate
bebacked the thesis that the luxury should cause of ecological issues. A book of this
not be morally condemnable by the grace of nature represents an invaluable
contributhe Lord. These scholars interpret that tion since it not only achieves explaining
comfort and the ostentation must not be the inception of modern luxury but also
contemplated as sin which triggers incep- how capitalism by means of tourism and
tion for a new much more important ex- cultural consumption reproduces the
hegepression of pleasure: The self-motivated mony of pleasure. In addition, a work of
work. this nature would be catalogued as one of
In the fourth chapter, Diez introduces in most important and critical perspective in
the discussion the detail of how moral cha- economic philosophy and history, highly
racter of Europe deals with production in recommendable in extensive to
philosothe so called “Century of Lights.” The con- phers, economists, anthropologists,
histocept of mediocrity is indispensable for un- rians and other specialists concerned in
derstanding the reasons why virtue takes these kinds of topics.
place in the mind of these scholars. The
luxury that distinguishes the bourgeois
from other classes has been constituted as
a mechanism in triggering to manual
workers on whose shoulders fall the op-
pression of pauperism. In contradictory to
mercantilism which promoted the conti-
nuous exploitation of the psychological
needs, the self-motivated work is aimed at
highlighting potential rewards for involved
stakeholders introducing the idea of bet-
terness and happiness.
The perfection of goods in the usage of
affordable productive techniques entail
more free-time and a reconsideration of
salaries in working class. Like in Condorcet
and Smith, modernity carries implicitly
that education is one of most significant in
moderating the “stupidity.” Even though Recibido: 13/02/2010
we cannot explain this by now, it is note- Aceptado: 13/03/2010
worthy that mental retardation was a mor-
al impediment to produce and for that
overtly condemned. In general once and
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 8(2). 2010 ISSN 1695-7121