How Religion Influenced Modern Economics

How Religion Influenced Modern Economics


“One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism,” German sociologist Max Weber wrote in his landmark 1905 book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, “of rational conduct on the basis of the idea of the calling, was born from the spirit of Christian asceticism.”

Weber attributed the free-market success so prevalent amongst Protestant societies to its origins in Calvinist predestinarian theology: believers could never know for sure whether they had been saved, but material success portended well for their prospects of eternal salvation, so they might as well earn and save money.

Benjamin Friedman, a longtime Harvard economist, has absorbed the Weberian explanatory spirit and reshaped it for the modern age in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, his new book exploring the interplay between economic and religious ideologies. Friedman’s central contention, that “our ideas about economics and economic policy have long-standing roots in religious thinking,” permeates his treatment of Adam Smith, the progenitor

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