Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Christianity and Socialism

Throughout my life it has been clear to me that many Christians assume that capitalism has its roots in Christianity, and that a proper defense of capitalism must begin with an affirmation of the Christian worldview. Some even seem to think that where you find Christianity, you’re likely to find capitalism, as if the latter were a natural corollary of the former. With some two and a half billion Christians in the world (source), how’s that going?

I suppose that much of what gives impetus to this view is the famed Protestant work ethic that Max Weber wrote about in his highly influential book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which begins by observing that in nations “of mixed religious composition” there is a strong tendency that “business leaders and owners of capital… are overwhelmingly Protestant” (p. 35). In contravention to this, Michael Novak argues that capitalism was actually created by the Cistercians, a Catholic religious order which branched off from the Benedictines (because the Benedictines weren’t Benedictine enough), given their masterful use of profits and venture capital.