Economics After Luther

The question of the impact of the Reformation upon the economic realm has been long debated and even today little consensus has emerged. Discussion has generally focused on the apparent disparity between southern and northern Europe since early modern times and the greater economic success of the latter region. Is this to be correlated with the more largely Protestant character of the north? Is there an inherent link between Protestantism and capitalism? And if so, was this a direct or an indirect consequence of the teachings of the reformers themselves?

An immediate problem here is how we are to define capitalism and the spirit of capitalism that was invoked by Max Weber. For some commentators, and even for Amintore Fanfani in his rightly admired and now classic book on this topic, both are seen as somewhat natural phenomena, directly linked to the human desire for gain, advantage, and material comfort.[1] If one takes this perspective, then the influence of religion upon the economic realm tends to be seen in merely negative terms: as a matter of the relative presence or absence of restraint of the acquisitive instinct. In Fanfani’s case, Protestantism, in the course of its development rather than its original impact, was plausibly seen as offering considerably less restraint than Catholicism. However, while the perennial presence of an acquisitive instinct is banally true, there is no real evidence of any pre-modern social inclination anywhere to organise an economy, much less a socio-political order, on the minimum basis of individualistic greed. To the contrary, as Karl Polanyi famously asserted, this has been almost universally avoided by embedding the economic in social goals of reciprocal human flourishing.[2] It is only capitalist modernity that perversely does just the opposite: embed social and political pursuits in the economic realm, itself newly understood in terms of a mutual satisfying of essentially isolated egoistic needs.

For this reason, we cannot just take for granted the emergence of capitalism as an historical phenomenon. It has to be accounted for. But precisely how are we to define it? The capitalist spirit can be broadly understood in the fashion already indicated: as the bold inverting of anarchy into order; the strange organization of society upon the regulation, either automatic or imposed, of innately anti-social, individualistic and largely materialistic impulses. Such an organisation involves at least three components which together can be taken as composing capitalism: a legitimately unrestrained pursuit of private profits allowing an unbalanced accumulation of capital ownership; a licensing of financial speculation through relatively unlimited usurious award whereby capital is both further accumulated and further assumes an abstract, monetary character. Finally, an expropriation of ownership of land and working tools from the laborer, such that he can become the recipient of a wage, in lieu of receiving a duly proportionate return on the results of his labour, regarded as something which innately belongs to him or to her.

Prior to the conjunction of these three elements, one can argue that one does not, as yet, have fully-fledged capitalism. And historically the third has tended to come last. It has generally been preceded by a growth in merchant and financial power which indeed have much longer historical antecedents. But the power of the trader, the lender, and even the aggregating owner for a long period increased without involving a sundering of the peasant farmer or the artisanal worker entirely from his ownership of the means of production or ability, often achieved through guild membership, of commanding rewards taken as commensurate with this ownership. It is rather at the point where the figures of the merchant, financier, and the owner tend to converge or to combine forces that one can really speak of capitalism. For then, in a way that in general terms Karl Marx correctly appreciated, one truly has a market system unfairly biased towards and distorted by an excessive role and power accorded to capital, since now the owners of capital have expropriated concrete land and tools from the workers. By this token they have also begun to subordinate the substantive ends of work to the abstract end of stockpiling both concrete and abstract capital, such that the real goal of production is now always further production rather than the production of specific useful and desirable items.

For this reason, the decisive turn towards a capitalist system came with the emergence of the first proto-factories in the Netherlands in the late Middle Ages and still more with the abolition of the English peasantry in the same period, such that they now became agricultural wage labourers, on both secular and some monastic lands. After the Reformation, the conveying of formerly monastic lands to gentry proprietors, sometimes also engaged in a piratical overseas trade and on both accounts naturally allied to the staunchest Calvinism, much exacerbated this process.[3]

Nevertheless, the necessity of the arrival of this third component is not tantamount to the thesis, as in most versions of Marxism, that the alienation of labor is necessarily the main driving motor of the capitalist system. To the contrary, one might regard it as simply a further development of the primary financializing impulse, which has newly discovered how to base power in the abstract and fluid rather than the concrete and fixed, and upon negative bonds of debt, rather than positive ones of duty and fealty. Essentially, the alienation of labor renders the laborer in fearful dependence upon abstract resources and as owing his labor as a debt due his reception of a regular pecuniary sum rather than as an interpersonal and social responsibility that he must fulfill according to his role.

Therefore, the growth of finance, though not a sufficient condition for the advent of capitalism, may still be considered not just as a necessary but as the primary driver, while the notion of financialization as but a late and decadent phase of the market development, as for Giovanni Arrighi, seems entirely questionable.[4]  The ever-greater availability of loans puts more and more owners in perpetual debt; to meet this debt they must extract more profits; the expropriation of the worker and the enclosure of ever more property greatly facilitates this extraction. In this way then, the exploitation of surplus labor becomes but a moment within a more primary process of abstraction which simultaneously aggregates and conglomerates the concrete, including human work, into the merely measurable, like Cartesian space. In consequence, both money and land are equally leached of any archaic, symbolic resonance.

Understanding these features of fully-fledged capitalism and its genesis will prove relevant to also understanding its connections with religion. Even as fully-fledged and far more in terms of its emerging pre-conditions, capitalism clearly preceded the Reformation and especially in the northern countries where the transmutation of production took place, though it was in turn preceded by a revolution in banking in the south. This does not, however, mean that its eventual overwhelming triumph and dominance can be taken as already inevitable. For that reason the question of the decisive impact of Protestantism remains an open one.

Moreover, one cannot regard pre-Reformation capitalism, after the manner of Fanfani and Luciano Pellicani, as merely secular in character.[5] The loosening of restrictions on usury, together with a detachment of ownership from expected usage, and contract from substantive content, was already present in Franciscan theology and still more so in its nominalist variants. In complex and perhaps still to be researched ways this theology appears to be correlated with a late medieval situation of evermore contested jurisdiction between Church and monarchs, gyrovagic and settled clergy, and so on, and a somewhat despairing response that involved already attempts to legitimate power in terms internal to the logic of power itself and equally to legitimate possession and agreement in terms of their merely formal and constantly immanent features.

Already then, both in the political and the economic realms, one can observe an effort to cope with mounting anarchy by distilling order out of anarchy itself. The effort was underwritten by an increasing tendency to think of God not as the infinite embodiment of intrinsic justice but as an inscrutable will who lays down an arbitrary legal order for both the natural and the human domains.

What is more, as Giorgio Agamben and Dotan Leshem have argued, one cannot just think in terms of religion and economics as discrete realms that happen to influence each other.[6] For religion and especially Christian religion is, in itself, an economy in a real fashion that involves more than just a play on words. God was taken to “economize” his power in his dealings with us, both to govern us and to redeem us. The Church on earth was regarded as having a decisive role in the mediation of this divine economy. In its economic adaptation to different times, places, and individuals it still tried to convey and embody—through symbol, law, liturgy, and sacrament—a universal justice and charity. But in the late medieval period, just as all relations were becoming somewhat more commercial and calculable according to a utilitarian reason, so also with the economy of salvation. In essence, ethical works and works of real devotion were becoming devalued through an increasing trade in penitence, indulgence, and intercession.

Certainly Catholicism had always been characterized by processes of mutual atonement extending between the living and the dead, but in this period such reciprocal solidarity was becoming inverted into a contractualized pursuit of self-interest. If one is thinking in terms of gift-exchange and the threefold Maussian obligation to give, receive, and give in return, then one could say that it was doubly dissolving: first in terms of the purely unilateral gift of an arbitrary God or his arbitrary human representatives; secondly in terms of mutual arrangements reduced to formal binding contract entered into for individual and not fraternal reasons, even if this had to do with one’s eternal salvation.

Religion then, included its own economy which extended into a literal economy of trading in religious commodities. Inversely, the ordinary economy also belonged to religion insofar as economic arrangements presented and mediated divine justice and charity, besides the symbolic and unifying resonance of things grown, made, bought and sold. In the case of the emerging capitalist economy this resonance was being leached away, just as ownership and contract no longer embodied any substantive justice. And yet this very disenchantment and de-ethicization still mediated religious power in a novel manner, just because it was the sheer divine power and will that was now taken to be the most sacred reality.

Against this background one should try to view the Reformation process as likewise, in itself both a religious and an economic one. In relation to the late medieval religio-economic amalgam just outlined, one might argue, here following both Fanfani and Pellicani, that it represented at once a horrified and consoling retreat and yet at the same time an exacerbation, unintended and yet somewhat inevitable.

In terms of the horror, one can view Martin Luther’s rejection of the trade in indulgences and intercessions on the one hand, and his continued Medieval rejection of usury and profiting at another person’s expense on the other, as part of one and the same picture. Undoubtedly, this double contamination of both our sacred relation to God and our fraternal relation to our neighbour is part of what Luther meant by what he took to be our extreme degree of depravity, our limitless capacity to twist the best into the worst.

Nevertheless, Luther’s primary reaction to this twofold horror was not to try to reform it. He did not suggest that the real way to salvation was genuine works of mercy and of liturgical devotion. Rather, in despair of fallen iniquity he offered the pure consolation of dependency upon an extrinsic divine grace, operating regardless of our sins.[7] This message was at once consoling to the victims of capitalism and an alibi for its main beneficiaries—just as later both failing old-fashioned gentry and rising more commercial gentry were attracted to Puritanism in England for equally clear and yet opposite reasons—to allude to a hoary debate.

But even though Luther railed against economic depravity, his main reaction here also was more one of despair than of a program for transformation. This was scarcely any longer possible, given the infinitely corrupting scope of human sin, even after our redemption. What is more, for Luther the corollary of our total lack of merit, implying our inability to will anything, was the total alienating of all initiative and activity to God, without any participatory or synergic blending. Thus, even our good works become something that God happens to do within us. For our part, nothing that we do is about anything other than meeting our own egoistic needs for comfort and achievement.

For this reason, Luther expected little improvement. Instead, he proposed a double remedy. First the state was to exert an iron grip over our worst tendencies, for the sake of a purely terrestrial order. Second, we were to channel our egotism in the surer channel of particular secular vocation. However much this did truly serve to sacralize the ordinary, such vocation for Luther still possessed no real relevance for eternity and so (unlike parallel Catholic recommendations of lay vocation) no sacramental resonance. Moreover, since all human works were null and void, it was no longer about the immediate and local pursuit of mutuality and community. Rather it already assumed a coordination of the division of labor more from the political on-high. For this reason, the social dimension of vocation was already implicitly subordinated to contract in Luther, while state organization was conceived as akin to the imposition of a singularly arid one-way donation.

In the end therefore, the late medieval religion and economy are exacerbated by Luther even though he has shied away from both in horror. For in no sense has a gift-exchange between man and God and between man and man been restored. Instead, all semi-Pelagian elements of contract between God and man have been rightly removed, but wrongly in favor of a more sheerly unilateral divine donation. What is more, because divine grace is given to some and not others according to an inscrutable decree, its very gift character becomes precarious, lapsing in favor of mere divine power and will. It is consequently the latter and not the divine generosity that now seems more comprehensible and imitable by us. As a result we are simply to receive what has been given to us her and hereafter and for now remain dutifully within our station. The charity of God is in consequence obscured and the charity of human beings has been rendered uncertain.

Any charity as bond or exchange is necessarily viewed by Luther as disguised self-interested contract and in consequence the pure charity proceeding from grace alone is now, on the divine model a private, elective and occasional action. It cannot any longer enter into the real substance of social and economic life. The attractive side of Luther is indeed that such charity is now no longer a mere remedy for sin but truly echoes the original and spontaneous divine goodness within the Trinity and in creation. But his ethical limitation resides in his exclusion of charity from any constitutive relationality. And in any case the original, non-reactive character of charity in Luther as preceding evil and any need for the operation of the law, is dangerously undercut by his statements to the effect that evil proceeds also from God and that Good in him arises after all as a rejection of this seemingly initial Satanic motion, in a way that appears to anticipate both Jacob Boehme and F.W. J. Schelling.

From all this one can infer a fundamental contradiction within Luther. His untraditional despair of human goodness and freedom depends all the same upon his somewhat traditional disdain for the usual Catholic list of failings, including material greed and monetary exploitation. Yet equally, as a whole gamut of commentators have noted, the same despair renders it uncertain just how far such evil can be at all remedied. Indeed, if we are doomed to evil by the fall and worse even predestined to it by a God who even includes evil within himself, horribly amoral consequences might ensue, as the German peasants seem to have intimated in the notably barbaric crushing of their revolt and as the German knights and princes certainly realized in terms of their further embrace of a power-politics. Luther’s natural ethical traditionalism meant that he was, in direct terms, more discouraging than encouraging of capitalism, yet his ultimate theological position could, as Fanfani argued, be taken as perfectly compatible with any degree of capitalist extremity. In a depraved moral universe, where even natural goodness is of no ultimate supernatural relevance (and so is only qualifiedly good in any case) how are we ever to know that economic probity is such at all? And given that circumstance of questionability, is not pure free market order the best that we can hope for?

However, in later historical reality, it is not usually Lutherans who have drawn these extreme consequences from Lutheran doctrine. Instead and strikingly, Lutheranism seems tied to the strong single sovereign state all way from royal absolutism to modern Scandinavian social democracy. In the case of Prussian cameralism the religious legacy was greatly modified by the emergence of Pietism, which much more emphasized the positive ethical valency of the reformer: the pure disinterested goodness of works performed under grace and the way their sanctifying power realizes the presence of faith and grace within us. Sometimes this bent towards a true recovery of mutualism, but much more often it became allied to state programs of reformation of essentially isolated individuals, with consequences that we can still see in Northern Europe today.

In this respect, the contrasts with Calvinism are very extreme. Why should that have been the case? Essentially it would seem to be to do with Calvinism’s much more exalted ecclesiology, insofar as it considers the Presbyterian system to be a divinely revealed one, to which the state is subordinate. Instead, for Lutheranism, the spiritual Church is essentially a collection of baptized individuals, with the pragmatic, organizational side of ecclesial matters handed over to the secular arm. This tends to mean also the handing-over of the administration of charity and strongly to suggest that people are ecclesially connected or linked to each other at all, only through the state-power. In consequence all that was once regarded as belonging to a natural individual ethic, including economic behavior, tends to remain in place. At the same time, the “economic” process, in the sense of the administrative and the governmental—indeed the “politically economic” in the sense of the term used by Jean-Jacques Rousseau—is operated by a state bureaucracy. Since this state also has an Erastian aspect of being the Church, the state will now tend to operate a total “welfare” economy, subsuming sacred as well as secular economic functions to itself. Thus, Lutherans characteristically adopted a strong view of absolute state sovereignty in imitation of the absolute power of God, but they did so very much in the interests of permitting an absolute political power an unlimited sway of detailed practical governance.

With Calvinism it was quite otherwise. Within the Presbyterian system many more administrative, social and economic functions are retained by the Church. Since this system was also a kind of mixed constitution involving both aristocratic and democratic elements, besides a local distribution of authority, it was sometimes natural for Calvinists, as with Johannes Althusius in Germany to adopt a pluralist Aristotelian model for political governance in general, which also developed the Protestant insistence on regular vocation into the notion that guilds, economically corporative and professional bodies are a constituent part, along with geographical units, of the primary political order.[8]

In this understanding, which is remarkably compatible with modern Catholic Social Teaching, there is scarcely anything encouraging of capitalist formation. On the other hand, the Calvinist legacy has often led in a very different direction. It is true that, almost as much as with Lutherans, a whole gamut of Calvinist teachers, beginning with Calvin himself, denounced profit-making and usurious acquisition. And if Calvin relaxed, more than Luther did, the teaching on usury, then so also did many Catholic teachers at the time. Nevertheless, in the case of Calvinism, essentially the same most fundamental and crucial Protestant teaching on human depravity, the bondage of the will, predestination and the consequent undoing of the gift-exchange model between God and man and amongst humans themselves,[9] tended eventually to encourage an unbridled market economy in Holland, the British Isles and North America—in parallel to the way in which Lutheranism eventually encouraged unbridled state control.[10]

For given the much greater inhibitions of the state by the Presbyterian churches, another way had to be found to regulate the sinful mass of humanity. This way was the market, still seen as both a divine and a human economy since here it is God himself, through the operation of nature, who is tempering vice with vice. As equally in the case of the parallel ideas of Jansenism within the Catholic Church, one can trace here a smooth evolution of ideas from 17th century Calvinism through to more “rationalist” natural theological presentations in the 18th century.[11]

At the same time, the market was not considered to be only for the benefit of sinners. In the case of Calvinism, Weber was not altogether wrong, because indeed the doctrine of vocation in this tradition, less related to an organic duty towards the state as in Lutheran Prussia and Scandinavia, tended to become linked to a doctrine of success, even commencing with Calvin himself.[12] For if there is no real natural, human merit, then inevitably natural goodness tends more and more to be construed in a functionalist, utilitarian fashion, in a way that a continued influence of Renaissance Stoicism can much reinforce. And indeed if God’s elective preference is arbitrary, then a surer sign of his favor must be your ethically unmerited success rather than any necessarily dubious manifestations of sanctity.

Yet Weber was wrong, as R.H. Tawney saw, to confine Calvinist influence on capitalism to the psychological, as though capitalism was self-explanatory as a purely rational system, which was how Weber of course saw it.[13] Instead, in England at least, Calvinism directly helped to shape the legal carapace within which capitalism operated. Thus, property ownership because more one of outright rights of powerful occupation to do what one likes with one’s own and increasingly any voluntary contract had to be reinforced, even if it lacked any legitimate causa or objectively substantive justice in the first place as Roman law would require. Nor was tacit promise as opposed to explicit agreement any longer actionable within a transformed common law, again in contrast to the Roman legacy, by which earlier common law, through the influence of Canon law had once been influenced. Here one can note that Marcel Hénaff has argued that Protestantism in France spread precisely in those areas with the weakest Roman legal tradition. In any case, these legal shifts, crucial to capitalist operation, are clearly rooted directly in Calvinist theology of divine right and divine-human covenant and not in any psychological effects of Calvinist doctrine.

The same verdict applies more generally to the Protestant suspicion of monasticism and the contemplative life as a waste of human time, besides the refusal of Canon Law and of Church ownership and administration of material resources. In all these cases, a theological opposition to a symbolic merging of material with sacred economies led directly to a great release of resources for a purely material one. And this meant, in the case of the dissolution of the monasteries in England immediately and mostly to private and not public material benefit, even if there was some diversion of the Church patrimony towards education. Indeed this seizure and appropriation may have actually interrupted technological development.[14]

In general then, one can say that the reformers reacted against the semi-Pelagianism of the late medieval economico-religious calculus in an all-too drastic fashion. Lumbered with an inherited and metaphysically faulty model whereby divine and human causality had to be played-off against each other in a zero-sum game, in rightly seeking to refuse any debased, mercantile glory to human beings, they were forced to give all the glory to God in such a way as inevitably to deny natural human goodness, created freedom and finally the divine goodness itself. Ironically, their desire to reject what they saw as a neo-pagan religious market caused them to embrace what was, in effect, a darker paganism of unrestricted fatalism. In practical collective terms this diversely increased the power of the unilateral sovereign state and of the purely contracting market. Gift-exchange, the previous basis of all preceding human society, was thereby elided and even the pure unilateral gift was compromised.

In the very long term, the arguable upshot of all this in the world today is that we are more and more actualizing a total depravity which the Reformation falsely presupposed as doctrine. Just for this reason, it seems plausible to argue that Protestantism is the main precursor and instigator of political liberalism. The latter, seeing less and less reason to believe in an unlovable Protestant God, eventually secularized, having first intensified (with Thomas Hobbes) the doctrine of total depravity as the war of all against all, and has equally tended in time to bring about the very circumstance which it wrongly ontologized at the outset.

One should not see all this, as Marcel Hénaff tends to do, despite some evident nostalgic regrets, as part of an inevitable process. For just as there is no natural inclination to capitalism, so there is, contra Hénaff, no natural sphere of sheerly economic activity. Not just ethnography but also history confirms that many societies have organized much of their economy on gift-exchange principles. To see these, as Hénaff does, as really or properly belonging only to the sphere of ritual recognition is to overlook the fundamental point that a gift, by definition, is the intersection of thing and symbol and so of real with symbolic processes. Just for this reason one cannot see it as merely a support for interpersonal ethical recognition, beyond the contractual indifference of economic contract or the unilateral power of the State. For this recognition would be totally without effect, unable to temper the latter things, did not its spirit of the gift at least to a degree really enter into their technical operations. Hénaff himself gives a good account, based on Bartolomé Clavero, of the continued sway of gift-exchange in the Catholic baroque, yet on his own scheme he must regard this as a kind of aberration of confusion of categories.

Yet as he says, the promotion of the antidora or countergift by Domingo de Soto and others was purely in continuity with medieval practice. Usury, including pure profit, is for de Soto wrong because in effect it receives a gift without in any way returning it. Conversely, as Clavero notes payments on monetary loans were sometimes construed in Spain not contractually due loans but themselves as gratuitous antidorae. Hénaff rightly sees this as more than resort to a ruse because it rather colours every transaction differently. Above all, as Clavero argues, it keeps it within the remit of the extended familial. Just as extended families themselves remained crucial in southern Europe, so also the wider political and economic society was construed in terms of brothers and sisters whom we do not wish to destroy and of children whom we, as political and economic guardians, wish to nurture and to educate.

Ultimately, it was this familial model that the Reformation undermined and ultimately because it no longer saw God as the loving Father of all, whom, if we are to be reconciled with, we must love in turn with a love which is only authentic if we are also loving his other children. It somewhat beggars belief just how the very people claiming to be recovering the authentic Bible could have managed to suppress this very heart of the scriptures. And of course it must be stressed that within the history of Protestantism that suppression has more often than not fortunately failed at a private and personal level. Yet, at a more public level the damage has been done and has proved more and more insidious, perhaps because the core of Reformation doctrine was so much in the interests of the powerful and the moneyed.

As to their success and the success of Protestant countries in the past, it was a to a degree somewhat tautologous. Indeed the pursuit of success primarily produced an awful lot of it. And in the same spirit one must reappraise the adjudged “failure” of southern Catholic Europe. It did not fail to sustain, albeit imperfectly, an older, more familial Christian public order which can too easily be judged as “corrupt” by debatable Protestant standards, themselves far more amoral at root. Nor to continue to contribute to art, music and literature and philosophy, if rather more mutedly than in the past. Any arrest of earlier vital urban and economic development can also be somewhat attributed to the way in which northern capitalist triumph redefined the terms of success and eventually forced the south to compete on these redefined terms, just as today Europe is forced more and more to operate in an American economic idiom if it wishes to continue to prosper.

It is true that many enterprising individuals were either forced out of Catholic lands or chose to leave them. But this will not explain, contra Pellicani, just why they were inclined to capitalist enterprise, it not being universally true that immigrants are necessarily people of exceptional enterprise. If there was all the same far too much Spanish and Spanish imperial self-defeating suppression of free speech and invention, then that was in itself in over-reaction to an heretical revolution that had split Europe in part and threatened its cohesion. It was also the result of a different, Catholic mode of state capture of the religious from both Church and Empire and of an excessive pursuit of centralized, spectacular and bureaucratic power. In the end, just the same late medieval factors tending to dissolve the rule of charity as gift-exchange were at work in the lands of the Counter-Reformation also.

If these factors were contingent, to do with a dubious theology, forgetful of Patristic origins, and with a breakdown of the substantial order and shared purpose of Christendom, then we cannot see this collapse of gift-exchange as inevitable, as Hénaff appears to do. Already, the Christian version of reciprocity, since it was the exchange of love and of God and the body of God, not a restricted tribal fetish, was extended to include distributive justice (as Hénaff indeed allows), freedom of instigation of exchange and judged exceptionality of instance. Indeed it is the non-duality of gift with contract and with law as binding that allows this very flexibility and a gift that is not free, justly appropriate and attuned to every exceptional circumstance is not a gift at all. By contrast, modern contract and legality without gift are necessarily inflexible and can only pursue justice as commutative, contract as absolute without allowance for implicit promise or just occasion, freedom as negative liberty of choice to which one will unconditionally held and exception as the prerogative of the unaccountable sovereign ruler.

It follows that we do not need “sociologically” to celebrate the final modern arrival of every differentiated human realm to its supposed proper sphere, including ritual gift-exchange. The southern Christian muddle may be truer after all to nature, justice, and charity and the “Middle Age” of History to have been a middle also of Aristotelian balance between a tribal lack of differentiation of tasks around fetishized exchanged items and a modern self-organising anarchy which fetishizes nothing and differentiates infinitesimally only because nothing any longer reflects the sacred at all, including the human visage itself. The more today this self-organization breaks down into a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own delusion, the more we need honestly to see that this was first a Protestant delusion before it was a liberal one.

Editorial Note: Our thanks go out to the author and Luigino Bruni, who commissioned the piece to be published in Italian translation, for giving us permission to publish the original English edition.

[1] Amintore Fanfani, Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism (London: Sheed and Ward, 1939).

[2] Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins Of Our Time (Boston MS: Beacon Press, 2001).

[3] Robert Brenner, Merchansts and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict and London’d Overseas Traders 1550-1653 (London: Verso, 2003).

[4] Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the 21st Century (London: Verso, 2009).

[5] Luciano Pellicani, The Genesis of Capitalism and the Origins of Modernity (New York: Telos, 1994).

[6] Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government trans. Lorenzo Chiesa (Stanford CA: Stanford UP, 2011); Dotan Leshem, The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy From Jesus to Foucault (New York: Columbia UP, 2017).

[7] See John C. Rao ed., Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and tis Consequences for Church, State and Society (Kettering OH: Angelico, 2017).

[8] Johann Althusius, Politica, trans. Frederick S. Carney (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1995); one assumes that the neoliberals who published this book cannot have read its communitarian contents.

[9] See Marcel Hénaff, The Price of Truth: Gift, Money and Philosophy, trans. Jean-Louis Morhange (Stanford Cal: Stanford UP, 2010).

[10] Besides the essays in the Rao collection, see Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularised Society (Harvard MS: Harvard UP, 2015).

[11] See John Milbank, “Oikonomia leaves home: theology, politics and governance in the history of the west,” in Telos, No 178, Spring, 2017, 77-99.

[12] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009).

[13] R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977).

[14] Brian Muzas, “STEM and the Reformation: Astronomy, Metallurgy and Economics,” in Rao, Luther and His Progeny, 197-216 and see also Jan Luiten van Zanden, The Long Road to the Industrial Revolution (Leiden; Brill, 2012).

Featured Image: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Martin Luther, 1525; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.


John Milbank

John Milbank is Emeritus Professor of Politics, Religion and Ethics at the University of Nottingham where he is also President of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy. His most recent book, written with Adrian Pabst, is The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future.

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