This blog takes its name from an important line in Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation,” but no Weber library is complete without “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” which argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinists and other Protestants, particularly their emphasis on hard work and discipline, played a key role in shaping the development of market economies.
It’s an intriguing hypothesis, one I was reminded of recently when I read an economics paper by Leander Heldring, James A. Robinson, and Sebastian Vollmer that looks at “The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries.” Their claim is that the English Reformation boosted the emergence of industrial capitalism less through a spiritual/ideological channel than through the mechanical impact of Henry VIII’s religious reforms on patterns of land ownership and land use.
The backstory here is that Henry, famously, wanted to swap wives and the Pope wouldn’t give him the annulment he craved, so broke …
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