McCloskey, Deirdre. Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.
What made us modern, and rich, was a change in ideology, or 'rhetoric.' First in little Holland and then in Britain a new dignity and liberty for the middle class freed innovation. A unique wave of gadgets, and then a tsunami, raised incomes from $3 a day to $30 a day and beyond. I try to show that the usual materialist explanations don't work — coal, slavery, investment, foreign trade, surplus value, imperialism, division of labor, education, property rights, climate, genetics. The most important secular event since the domestication of plants and animals depended on more than routine. It arose from liberties around the North Sea achieved in the civil and anti-imperial wars from 1568 to 1688, and above all from a resulting revaluation of bourgeois life. In recent decades China and then India have revalued their business people, and have thereby given hundreds of millions of people radically fuller lives. The modern world began in northwestern Europe, in the same way: ideas led. The book gently rejects the materialism typical of conventionally Marxist or economic approaches. Its ambition is to introduce a humanistic science of the economy - 'humanomics' - directing attention to meaning without abandoning behavior, using literary sources without ignoring numbers, combining the insights of the human and the mathematical sciences.
Discussed here: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s3096384.htm.