You've read the books, and your economic interpretation of history
, as you choose to call it" (this with a sneer), "eminently fits you for an intellectual outlook on life.
Seligman published his non-Marxist Economic Interpretation of History. A professor of political economics at Columbia, Seligman claimed in his book, "The existence of man depends upon his ability to sustain himself; the economic life is therefore the fundamental condition of all life." (14) Beard immediately fell under the spell of Seligman's ideas.
SELIGMAN, THE ECONOMIC INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY 3 (1902).
Economic history that aims to explain as well as to describe runs the danger of offering an inappropriate economic interpretation of history
. In general Cameron is sensitive to this point (for instance, in his account of why Poland did not emerge as a major European power in the eighteenth century, p.
Beard acknowledged his debts to Seligman and his "nearly axiomatic" theory that "the economic life is therefore the fundamental condition of all life." (91) Beard was a careful student of Seligman's highly influential work on the philosophy of history, The Economic Interpretation of History. From it, Beard, Robinson, and many others learned that one could divorce Marx's historical materialism from his teleological view of the rise of socialism.
One of the primary aims of Seligman's The Economic Interpretation of History was to sever the traditional Marxist theory of historical change, which Seligman agreed with, from the prescriptive tenets of conventional Marxist socialism, which he profoundly rejected.
When Walter Lippmann criticized Beard in 1922 for failing to examine "the metaphysics of the relations between economics and politics," Beard responded that "on that point there is nothing better than Professor Seligman's very clear and interesting Economic Interpretation of History." Beard continued that he had originally set out to investigate "the social implications of economic forces," but he only found "much speculation and very few facts." Committed to the institutionalist mission of uncovering the empirical basis for economic claims, Beard dedicated himself, as he told Lippmann, to engaging "in the analysis of concrete historical and economic situations [rather] than in the metaphysics of the matter." (95)
In fact, one of the reasons why Seligman sought to decouple Marx's historical materialism from revolutionary socialism in his book, The Economic Interpretation of History, was to show that there was a huge divide between progressive policies and state socialism.