Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Wicked Child!

Damn, we were going to go back to concentrating on the day job, and then this ambitiously wrong-headed opus from George Monbiot in the Guardian comes winging over. George we have a sneaking admiration for, since he gets to live in Oxford, and he's one of the more coherent opponents of of the private finance initiative a truly bizarre way of buillding new government buildings that has never really been criticised properly, mostly because the alternative, raising taxes, can't be sold as easily.

But (quelle surprise) we digress. We were looking at George's above-linked article, which suggests that George W. Bush represents the rise of a new puritanism. It's a nice idea, given the heavy religious overtones, moralistic posturing and blinkered fundamentalism we see in elements of the current adminstration. But Puritans are well known for having a social conscience, so Monbiot, who, we must admit, is well-read, has to monkey with the timeline.

The link between the rise of protestanntism and capitalism has been made many times before, starting with Max Weber's Protestant Ethic, which says that protestantism, and particularly Calvinism, enabled its adherents to make money safe in the comfort of an accommodating religious ethic. RH Tawney, admiringly quoted by Monbiot, is also part of this school. The usual way of debunking this theory is by noting that Catholics, given the right circumstances, can also turn a bob or two.

Another criticism, and this is more problematic for Monbiot's theory, is that the high point of puritan religious feeling was probably reached during the 1580-1650 period. But it is only after this period that protestant capitalism really took off. Or, to put it another way, the Bostonians made a pretty good living, but the boys from new York and Philly made a bunch more money. If true, Monbiot's theory might be truly depressing - that there is a real cohesion been the money right and the religious right. But we don't think there is, and history suggests it's hard to keep together, whatever Tawney dug up.


Post a Comment

<< Home