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End of a Myth: Max Weber, Capitalism, and the Medieval Order

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  • Gregg Samuel

    (John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family)

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    Abstract

    Despite having been underlined as contrary to established fact, the myth that there is a causal link between Protestantism and the emergence of capitalism persists in the popuar imagination as well as the academy. This article illustrates where Max Weber’s theory contradicts all the available historical evidence concerning the emergence of free economies in the West. It shows not only where Weber’s theory is unable to account for the emergence of capitalist practices and thinking before the Reformation, but also the manner in which capitalism’s development in the post-reformation era contradicts Weber’s theory. It then turns to illustrating the ways in which medieval Catholicism contributed to the emergence of the cultural and institutional prerequisites of post- Reformation capitalism, and the manner in which post-Reformation political and religious developments contribute to the emergence of merchantilist and protectionist practices that inhibited economic liberty.Bien qu’ayant été considéré comme contraire au fait établi, le mythe selon lequel il y aurait un lien causal entre le Protestantisme et l’émergence du capitalisme persiste dans l’imagination populaire aussi bien que dans le corps académique. Cet article illustre où la théorie de Max Weber est en contradiction avec toutes les évidences historiques disponibles concernant l’émergence des économies capitalistes en Occident. Il montre non seulement où la théorie de Weber est incapable de prendre en compte l’émergence de pratiques capitalistes et des pensées avant la Réforme, mais aussi la manière dont le développement du capitalisme durant la période suivant la Réforme contredit la théorie de Weber. Il illustre ensuite les manières dont le catholicisme médiéval contribua à l’émergence des pré-requis culturels et institutionnels au capitalisme de l’ère qui suivit la Réforme, et la manière à travers laquelle les développements politiques et religieux postérieurs à la Réforme contribuèrent à l’émergence de pratiques mercantilistes et protectionnistes qui inhibèrent la liberté économique.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines.

    Volume (Year): 13 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: 1-13

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    Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:3

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