A Critique of Profit

None of us can doubt that the generating of profits is among those processes which are vital to the survival and expansion of a business. It does not help to stigmatize as greedy an ingredient so important to the learning race and so necessary to its acceleration. Unfortunately, the emphasis on profitability goes much further than this. From being a necessary condition for long-term survival, it is often extolled to the point of being a sufficient condition, nay the be-all and end-all of economic activity itself, the “pure essence” on which all other measures dance attendance and to which all other concerns can be distilled.

This attitude seems to have a curious fascination for those schooled in the Puritan ethic, with its yearning for some unambiguous sign of divine favor, something with which to confound bishops, princes, and feudal vestiges, whose authority rested upon a vague mystique and an alleged organic place in the great chain of being. Countable, methodical, and demonstrable success was the banner of the bourgeois revolution, the yardstick used to belabor political opponents, rooted in the soil of an earlier tradition. Today this attitude is strongest in Britain and the United States, two countries who pioneered the industrial revolution and whose middle classes had to fight rhetorically much harder against an uncomprehending and resistant government and against their land-holding classes. Later industrial revolutions in France, Germany, Scandinavia, ...

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