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


  • Gregg Samuel

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


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 Webers theory contradicts all the available historical evidence concerning the emergence of free economies in the West. It shows not only where Webers theory is unable to account for the emergence of capitalist practices and thinking before the Reformation, but also the manner in which capitalisms development in the post-reformation era contradicts Webers 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 quayant été considéré comme contraire au fait établi, le mythe selon lequel il y aurait un lien causal entre le Protestantisme et lémergence du capitalisme persiste dans limagination 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 lémergence des économies capitalistes en Occident. Il montre non seulement où la théorie de Weber est incapable de prendre en compte lémergence 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 lémergence des pré-requis culturels et institutionnels au capitalisme de lère qui suivit la Réforme, et la manière à travers laquelle les développements politiques et religieux postérieurs à la Réforme contribuèrent à lémergence de pratiques mercantilistes et protectionnistes qui inhibèrent la liberté économique.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregg Samuel, 2003. "End of a Myth: Max Weber, Capitalism, and the Medieval Order," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 1-13, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raymond de Roover, 1955. "Scholastic Economics: Survival and Lasting Influence from the Sixteenth Century to Adam Smith," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 161-190.
    2. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Corrigenda [Introduction to the Economics of Religion]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
    3. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
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