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Money And Ethics

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues for the centrality of the usury prohibition in Weber’s account of the medieval economy. It takes up this theme by considering the vexed relationship between medieval canon law and moral theology expressed in two influential fourteenth-century treatises on usury by the jurist Giovanni d’Andrea and the ethicist Gerard of Siena. Gerard of Siena’s sweeping critique of usury was very much in the spirit of the times, which witnessed an intensification of the usury prohibition. Usury was not a peripheral topic in Weber’s writings. The topic emerged in Weber’s dissertation and gradually came to constitute a part of Weber’s inquiries into the salvation economy of medieval Christianity. He addresses the issue of usury in detail again in his two-part essay “The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism” in 1904-1905 and replies to his critic Felix Rachfahl in 1910.

Keywords: economic ethics; Felix Rachfahl; Gerard of Siena; Giovanni d’Andrea; medieval canon law; moral theology; Protestant ethic; usury prohibition; Weber’s dissertation



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