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Edinburgh University: Gifford Lectures – Professor Kathryn Tanner #6/6 – ‘Christianity & the New Spirit of Capitalism’ – Which World?


About this lecture series – Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism

The current configuration of capitalism, in which finance plays a dominant role, has the capacity to shape people in ways that hinder the development of any critical perspective on it. This series of lectures will explore the various cultural forms of finance-dominated capitalism and suggest how their pervasive force in human life might be countered by Christian beliefs and practices with a comparable person-shaping capacity. In this way, these lectures reverse the project of the German sociologist Max Weber in his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, while employing much the same methods as he used. Weber showed how Christian beliefs and practices could form persons in line with what capitalism required of them. These lectures will demonstrate the capacity of Christian beliefs and practices to help people resist the dictates of capitalism in its present, finance-dominated configuration.




About this lecture

Kathryn Tanner begins her final lecture by reiterating her intent for this series, namely, to dissociate Protestant Christianity from the new work ethic of finance-disciplined capitalism. To this end, she challenges the moralising and individuating effects of the new spirit of capitalism. Tanner cites examples such as performance pay, in which individuals are singled out through competition, and state welfare provision, in which people are appraised on the basis of future benefits they might provide society (rather than as part of a class, say). In these ways, finance capitalism places one in a competitive relationship with others, a dynamic that extends to more and more people with increasingly direct forms of rivalry. Even so, one remains dependent, for the ability to profit depends in ‘an unusually intense way on others,’ that is, whether they buy or decline to buy (so long as their choice is not ahead of your own!).’ MORE AT LINK





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