Religion as a Major Institution in the Emergence and Expansion of Modern Capitalism. From Protestant Political Doctrines to Enlightened Reform
Starting with the Reformation, as a social and religious mass movement, the institution of the “state” became synonymous with authority (Obrigkeit), and until the Enlightenment, the mundane absolute order deployed varied patterns. Beginning with Calvinism, which legitimized the expansion of state institutions, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marked a shift to modernization. Puritan authoritarianism, based on “saintly” discipline and on quasi-marginal freedom, developed a new, impersonal and voluntary political doctrine. While one generally associates Anglo-American Puritanism with political freedom, democracy or capitalism, we argue for a very different perspective, namely that the Puritans were both partisans of a medievalist paradigm as well as genuine enemies of democratic, liberal and secular values. Moreover, we emphasize that the Anglo-American radical Puritanism was only tempered by the Enlightenment. The enlightened philosophes were the defense advocates of liberal and pluralist ideas, and came out victorious of the competiton of ideas with their Puritan rivals.
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