Economics and Theology
Routledge – 2014 – 288 pages
In this path breaking book Paul Oslington shows how theology shaped political economy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Early political economists such as Adam Smith, William Paley, TR Malthus, Richard Whately, William Whewell extended the British scientific natural theology tradition of Bacon, Boyle, and Isaac Newton to the social world. This extension formed political economy as a discipline but also created tensions (especially the evolution of social institutions and theodicy) that eventually killed natural theology and separated economics from theology in mid-19th century Britain. The American story is different, with the migration across the Atlantic of a theological version of Adam Smith, an encounter with the social gospel movement, then the early 20th century separation of economics from theology. The book is essential reading for all concerned with the origins of economics, the meaning and purpose of economic activity, the role of religion in contemporary policy debates.
1. Introduction 2. Natural Theology: Philosophical and Historical Issues 3. Natural Philosophy and Economic Discourse in 17th and 18th century Britain 4. Adam Smith as Theologian 5. Natural Theology and the Beginning of Political Economy in England: William Paley and TR Malthus 6. Progress and Tension: Richard Whately, Thomas Chalmers, William Whewell and Political Economy in the early 19th century 7. Political Economy and the Death of British Natural Theology 8. The Separation of Economics from Theology in Britain 9. The Rather Different American Story 10. A Contemporary Revival of Natural Theology? 11. Conclusions