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Calvinism and the Making of the Modern European Economic Mind: A Comment and Call for More Research

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Chapter Summary

The numerous conferences and publications of 2009 recalling the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth showed that the question of "Calvinism and capitalism" remains inescapable in virtually any assessment of the reformer's legacy. After three generations of research devoted to pertinent aspects of Calvinism, the preponderance of the evidence clearly seems to be running in favor of the view that features distinctive to the theological or religious makeup of Calvinism or of the Reformed tradition more generally cannot convincingly be shown to have provided an important stimulus to rational capitalist accumulation or economic success. Calvin was indeed something of an innovator in declaring loans at interest for commercial purposes licit, although other non-Calvinists took the same step at almost the same time. In the subsequent generations, theologians within each major Christian confession took a range of positions on the question of the legitimacy of loans at interest.

Keywords: calvinism; capitalism; Christian confession; loans at interest; reformed tradition



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