IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Changing Theological Context of Economic Analysis since the Eighteenth Century


  • A. M. C. Waterman


Economic analysis (as we understand the term today) first appeared in France at the end of the seventeenth century as a consequence of Jansenist theodicy. Throughout the eighteenth century, political economy (the study of wealth, and not to be confused with economic analysis) was supposed to be compatible with Christian belief and of service to Newtonian natural theology. This changed suddenly in 1798. Thomas Robert Malthus's first Essay inaugurated “economics” (the study of scarcity), seemingly incompatible with the Christian religion. Richard Whately's distinction between “scientific” and “religious” knowledge protected each from the other for a while. But Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory seemed to destroy that distinction, and so to discredit religion and theology. A variety of strategies for relating economics to theology has been adopted since that time by those economists who wish to remain religious believers.

Suggested Citation

  • A. M. C. Waterman, 2008. "The Changing Theological Context of Economic Analysis since the Eighteenth Century," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 40(5), pages 121-142, Supplemen.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:40:y:2008:i:5:p:121-142

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bénédicte Vidaillet & V. D'Estaintot & P. Abécassis, 2005. "Introduction," Post-Print hal-00287137, HAL.
    2. Alberto Baccini, 2004. "High pressure and black clouds: Keynes and the frequentist theory of probability," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(5), pages 653-666, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:40:y:2008:i:5:p:121-142. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Center for the History of Political Economy Webmaster). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.