Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism R. H. Tawney

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism R. H. Tawney 8-2

*note, this is only about Christianity

--Have you ever wondered how exactly Christianity of the new testament--which was so strongly egalitarian--came to be used to justify capitalism and its use of slavery, class oppression, genocide, and exploitation?

--Have you ever wondered how "Christians" today can justify buying sweatshop labored produced products or simply look down on others as lazy or inferior despite all the signs of economic repression?

This book paints a picture that shows how these ideas grew in history starting in the middle ages. Written in 1926, it is an important work in the fields of sociology, history, economics and religion. The book is filled with quotes from maybe hundreds of primary sources, and relates all the majore political, economic, and religious events from 1500-1700

here's the gist:

1. Medieval europe was a serfdom and the church reinforced this by saying that everybody is part of the social "body". There was little change, little class mobility. BUT there were some financial centers that dealt with trade and the growing mining industry (main center was in Florence, Italy and the Roman Church controlled some finances, thru taxes and trade between states). Overall, financiers were generally criticized as evil, greedy ppl who did not work for their money and charged exorbirant interest rates--true, tho the church neatly evaded criticizing itself.

2. Then the 16th century hit--with an explosion of european mining and more importantly, the importation of riches from the americas and the far east. However, all these expeditions required much more capital than individual fuedal landowners, or even states had, so people began to invest together, creating several financial markets throughout europe, and creating great wealth for the financiers--a class of people that was quickly growing to become influential.

3. Meanwhile, Martin Luther starts criticizing the church because of its abuses of power, especially its use of interest. In fact, he starts criticizing all economic ideas and proposes that ppl should go back to a pre-medieval feudal system because true faith in god cannot be shown thru an institution, only thru hard labor on the land. He is the first sign of the movement separating church from state, tho he does not have a realistic economic plan

4. In the mid to late 1500s, John Calvin, swiss, also wants the church to stop telling ppl how to live. However, he is a merchant/capitalist and thinks that interest and trade SHOULD be used, tho strictly regulated. In Geneva, a main financial city, a group of his followers start living like that, working diligently at creating profits, but showing strict limits on economic actions (like high interest).

5. In england, during this time, they break away from the Roman Church, but continue to want the English church to regulate laws. At first, they outlaw interest and forbid capitalists from bying up land. But as the mercantile class gets larger and starts offering the state more money to buy the land (which increases the states' profits and then the owners turn around sell it for more), that class starts to gain clout in politics and the state starts paying less attention to its church's criticisms of interest. They start citing the idea of "natural law", that man is born with certain rights to do whatever he wants--hardly ethics. by the end of the 1500s, the church is stripped of its judicial power and laws are inacted giving the mercantiel class free reign

6. Protestantism grows in popularity in england--basically it's Calvinism with no restrictions on economic activities. It's members are primarily capitalist class ppl so they believe that god has chosen them (because of their good standing in society) and that they should do their best to make use of the world. They don't believe that the Church or State should regulate them--they desire freedom of religion and democracy. They believe poverty is a result of laziness. The reason they get away with this elitist theology is because the Church (and therefore its theologians) has been so pushed aside that there is no developed Theology to sufficiently criticize them.

7. And, since then, religion has faded more and capitalism is all that has remained.

8. But there is a new wave of Christianity that is providing ethics to our debauched world

No comments: