Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


(1880-1962) British historian; argued in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Harcourt 1926 [2nd ed., 1937]) that changing religious ideas were the consequence as well as the cause of capitalist development.

Late Medieval business practices, agrarian transformations, expansion to the Americas, new state structures, Renaissance political and economic theories, including political arithmetic, and other factors were central to the development of modern capitalism. Protestantism did express the economic individualism of the British commercial classes, but Weber's original "Protestant ethic thesis" had overemphasized changing religious motives, simplified Calvinism's complex development, and neglected the impact of other intellectual changes. Religious and moral casuistry, including the debates over usury, were especially central for Tawney, who had edited Thomas Wilson's Discourse upon Usury (Harcourt 1925 [1572]). The second edition of Tawney's book reproduced his main argument but presented a tempered view of Weber's limitations, based on a fuller study of his main writings.

Donald A. Nielsen

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500