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1/14/2017 6:25 pm  #1


David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

I had missed this, but apparently David Bentley Hart has written some articles this year claiming that his investigation of the New Testament and early church has led him to believe that Christianity is fundamentally opposed to capitalism. Not surprisingly, some critics disagree:

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/12/habetis-papam
https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/06/mammon-ascendant
https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/christs-rabble

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/12/16117/
https://stream.org/when-christians-turn-against-freedom/
http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2016/06/22/global-capitalism-versus-christianity-response-dav

​My own (very brief) view, as a distributist, is that, on the one hand, Hart sometimes goes too far (and he doesn't seem to differentiate enough between options like distributism compared to run of the mill democratic socialism or social democracy, which latter are often as bad as the corporate-capitalism he critiques). On the other hand, I have long been suspicious of those, like the people at the Acton Institute, who seem to think Adam Smith and Bastiat were disciples, and Mises, Hayek, and Friedman Church Fathers; people who think that traditional Christianity and classical liberalism, globalised corporate-capitalis, or even modern libertarianism, are uncomplicatedly compatible.

 

1/16/2017 12:41 pm  #2


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

Thank you for pointing me toward these articles.  This should be good reading.

If I may ask: What led you to distributism?  I've been trying to think these issues through myself, but have not gotten very far yet.

 

1/17/2017 5:02 pm  #3


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

I mean left-leaning thinkers make this mistake all the time: X is opposed to capitalism so X is with us.

The apostles were clearly not a socialist collective or anything.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

1/18/2017 11:20 am  #4


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

iwpoe wrote:

I mean left-leaning thinkers make this mistake all the time: X is opposed to capitalism so X is with us.

The apostles were clearly not a socialist collective or anything.

Did Hart really say New Testament promotes socialism or merely that it's opposed to capitalism?

New Testament most certainly opposes the capitalism as pomoted by the prosperity gospel movement. Otherwise I'd say it's economically and politically quite neutral. Not of this world etc.

 

1/19/2017 4:23 pm  #5


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

Proclus wrote:

Thank you for pointing me toward these articles.  This should be good reading.

If I may ask: What led you to distributism?  I've been trying to think these issues through myself, but have not gotten very far yet.

Well, in terms of biography, I started off an anarchist in my late teens. I never quite settled on the form of anarchism (individualist/mutualist, collectivist, or communist), but I always leaned towards mutualist anarchism. I wasn't an anarchist by around twenty, but since then I've always been resolutely and quite radically decentralist, in economics, society, and culture, as well as politics.

In terms of principle, I think that the point of the economy is not necessarily to produce as many consumer goods and electromagnetic gadgets as possible, nor even to grow as large as fast as possible, but to contribute to as good a society and culture as possible. And I see the good in terms of Platonic-Christian and conservative or traditionalist principles. That is, after the satisfaction of material necessity, I see things like strong families and local communities, faith and spirituality, virtue, culture and art, good and properly human work, and a good relationship to nature and the land as more important than economic productivity. This is why I call myself a distributist, though I would argue you could just as well call my position conservatism or Christianity applied to the economic and social realm. Indeed, I'm influenced by many economic thinkers beyond the distributists, such as E.F, Schumacher, H.J. Massingham, Ruskin, Cobbett, Kropotkin, Eric Gill, Andanda Coomaraswamy, Wilhelm Roepke, Kevin Carson, and so on. I even find some distributists' overwhelming concern with the distributist state (the widespread ownership of the means of production by individuals and families) as putting the cart before the horse. It is important, but it is a means, not an end, as some almost seem to think. The end is the good, or goods, I mentioned.

And, obviously, whilst I'm weary of too much and too energetic state interference, especially from the centralised state, I don't agree with the libertarian view that it should almost always be eliminated for the sake of liberty and justice, or the (questionable) empirical claim the economy and society is always better when there is as little interference in the free market as possible (though I'm certainly on the anti-state, ultra-localist end of distributism).

iwpoe wrote:

I mean left-leaning thinkers make this mistake all the time: X is opposed to capitalism so X is with us.

The apostles were clearly not a socialist collective or anything.

I think this is true for both the left and the right. There is often very narrow thinking on economics, I find. Either one is a free market groupie for corporate-capitalism or a socialist, or a liberal/social democrat splitting the difference. And today, the idea one could significantly diverge from globalised corporate-capitalism orthodoxy, except on issues like the generosity of the welfare state or the tax executives pay, is rarely even taken seriously, even on the left.

seigneur wrote:

[
Did Hart really say New Testament promotes socialism or merely that it's opposed to capitalism?

New Testament most certainly opposes the capitalism as pomoted by the prosperity gospel movement. Otherwise I'd say it's economically and politically quite neutral. Not of this world etc.

I'm not sure they were neutral. I think there are Christian moral and spiritual principles, of course, and these have social and even economic consequences. I just don't think these consequences can easily be classed as socialist any more than they can be classed as classical liberal or social democratic.

I believe the Greek for Jesus' famous remarks on his kingdom not being of this world meant its principle and origin is not of this world, not that it didn't extend to this world (the important term now is missed out in some translations - he means that at the time the kingdoms of the earth do not recognise his overlordship; he is, after all, affirmed to be the legitimate successor to David).

     Thread Starter
 

1/24/2017 4:01 pm  #6


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

seigneur wrote:

iwpoe wrote:

I mean left-leaning thinkers make this mistake all the time: X is opposed to capitalism so X is with us.

The apostles were clearly not a socialist collective or anything.

Did Hart really say New Testament promotes socialism or merely that it's opposed to capitalism?

New Testament most certainly opposes the capitalism as pomoted by the prosperity gospel movement. Otherwise I'd say it's economically and politically quite neutral. Not of this world etc.

I just don't think that you can be politically neutral. Even quietism has political implications. Never mind that quite obviously the mechanics of organizing around the other world has positive political implications- borne out in Rome and every other place Christianity has come to rule.


Fighting to the death "the noonday demon" of Acedia.
My Books
It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger
 

2/10/2017 3:48 am  #7


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

​My own (very brief) view, as a distributist, is that, on the one hand, Hart sometimes goes too far (and he doesn't seem to differentiate enough between options like distributism compared to run of the mill democratic socialism or social democracy, which latter are often as bad as the corporate-capitalism he critiques). On the other hand, I have long been suspicious of those, like the people at the Acton Institute, who seem to think Adam Smith and Bastiat were disciples, and Mises, Hayek, and Friedman Church Fathers; people who think that traditional Christianity and classical liberalism, globalised corporate-capitalis, or even modern libertarianism, are uncomplicatedly compatible.

Much agreed, thought I lean towards the Acton Institute view. (I find J. Madison much more agreeable to the Christian tradition than K. Marx or H. Minsky.)

My main concerns with Hart are such:

(1) There is only one quote in his article "Christ's Rubble". Very little engagement with the authors he's criticizing.

For those of you who have read Feser on Hart, this is closely tied to Feser's concerns. Hart is only able to gallop between different positions because he treats them in such loosey goosey terms. (If he actually quoted who he was criticizing, Hart would have a much harder time critiquing his opponents.)

(2) As an economics major who is studying business cycle theory and American economic history, my first question is: WHICH capitalism? Agrarian capitalism (Jefferson)? Capitalism as the engine of modern finance (Hamilton)? The money manager capitalism of the 20th century (H. Minsky)? Again, Hart is very loosey goosey in describing his opponents, making it virtually impossible to show his critiques correct or false.

As to the relation betwix Christianity and capitalism, I highly recommend the following articles and books:

"The Return of Natural Law Economics": ​http://lehrmaninstitute.org/economic-policy/muller_oct02.pdf
"The End of Economics, or Is Utilitarianism Finished?": http://lehrmaninstitute.org/economic-policy/muller_apr02.pdf
Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element (ISI Books, 2010; revised paperback 2014)

EDIT: A shorter version of the above can be found in the following two lectures-

"The Preacher as Economist vs. 'The Economist as Preacher': Economics, Secularism, and Faith" (30 May 2008): http://eppc.org/docLib/20080606_Mueller_FaithLaw_30May08.pdf
The Preacher as Economist vs.The Economist as Preacher (Keynote address to the Panel on “Economics and Secularism”, Princeton University, 2003): http://lehrmaninstitute.org/economic-policy/muller_oct03.pdf

Last edited by Karl3125 (2/10/2017 3:53 am)


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2/17/2017 9:45 am  #8


Re: David Bentley Hart and his critics on Christianity and capitalism

iwpoe wrote:

I just don't think that you can be politically neutral. Even quietism has political implications. Never mind that quite obviously the mechanics of organizing around the other world has positive political implications- borne out in Rome and every other place Christianity has come to rule.

 Of course there are political implications to what Christians are specifically prescribed to do, just like there are all sorts of implications to any human activity, but are they specifically capitalist implications? Socialist implications?

 

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