With this issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, we introduce a new semi-regular feature section, the Status Quaestionis. Conceived as a complement to our Scholia, the Status Quaestionis features are intended to help us grasp in a more thorough and comprehensive way the state of the scholarly landscape with regard to the modern intersection between religion and economics.
Whereas the Scholia are longer, generally treatise-length works located in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, the Status Quaestionis will typically be shorter, essay-length pieces from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The first installment of the Status Quaestionis features an essay by Sergey Bulgakov (1871–1944), a renowned and influential Russian Orthodox theologian. His essay included in this issue, “The National Economy and the Religious Personality,” first published in 1909 and translated here by Krassen Stanchev, represents the first and in many ways most lasting Orthodox Christian response to the Weber thesis.
Peter Klein, blogging at Organizations and Markets, considers the Bulgakov translation and notes, “Bulgakov, widely regarded as the greatest 20th-century Orthodox theologian, has been attracting increasing interest in recent decades, in both East and West.”
Indeed, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, says this of Bulgakov’s contribution in economics:
In his early work he picked up the language of creativity and applied it to civic relations. He proposed understanding business, commerce and, in fact, much of daily life in the context of creativity. In his book The Philosophy of Economy (1912) he said there was no such thing as economic man, homo economicus, which was to say, no set of economic answers that could tell us how society ought to be run. The context was Russia’s first 20th-century attempt to modernise by borrowing economic ideas from the west, and already Bulgakov was arguing, against certain German economists, that pure economics wouldn’t work in Russia.
Williams’ interview, which touches on Bulgakov, Dostoevsky, and the broader history of Russia, is wide-ranging and illuminating, especially given current developments in relations between Russia and former Soviet republics.
In the introduction to his translation, “Sergey Bulgakov and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Krassen Stanchev, who serves as board chairman of the Institute for Market Economics, observes that the “language of creativity” and “personalism” identified by Williams in Bulgakov,
was first outlined by Bulgakov in the essay translated here. The economy is a human destiny; the man is ‘master’ (in Russian this word means both ‘an owner’ and ‘a housekeeper’) of the worldly establishments; not a ruler or dictator but the one who humanizes the world. This concept, to my understanding, is compatible with the most enlightened economic thinking of the twentieth century.
For more on recent developments in the relationship between Orthodox theology and economic thinking, see John Couretas‘ review, “An Orthodox View of Contemporary Economics, Politics, and Culture.”
Also in this issue:
- Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo considers “The Importance and Contemporary Relevance of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth.”
- Marek Tracz-Tryniecki explores “Natural Law in Tocqueville’s Thought.”
- Christopher Todd Meredith examines “The Ethical Basis for Taxation in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas.”
- José Atilano Pena López and José Manuel Sánchez investigate “Smithian Perspective on the Markets of Beliefs: Public Policies and Religion.”
- Surendra Arjoon discusses ethics in the corporate culture with “Slippery When Wet: The Real Risk in Business.”
- Gregory Mellema expounds on “Professional Ethics and Complicity in Wrongdoing.”
- And a number of excellent reviews of recent books, put together under the direction of our book review editor Kevin Schmiesing.
The editorial and article abstracts of current issues, including my “The State of the Question in Religion and Economics,” are freely available to nonsubscribers (you can sign up for a subscription here, including the very affordable electronic-only access option). And as per our “moving wall” policy of two issues, the most recent publicly-available archived issue is volume 10, number 1 (Spring 2007).
If you are a student or a faculty member at an institution of higher learning, please take the time to recommend that your library subscribe to our journal. If you are in interested layperson or independent scholar, please consider subscribing yourself.