An Orthodox Response to Max Weber
| Peter Klein |
“Orthodox” with a capital O, that is. The current issue of the Acton Institute’s flagship journal, the Journal of Markets and Morality, features the first English translation of Sergey Bulgakov’s 1909 essay “The National Economy and the Religious Personality,” described by translator Krassen Stanchev as “the first Orthodox Christian response to Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” Bulgakov, widely regarded as the greatest 20th-century Orthodox theologian, has been attracting increasing interest in recent decades, in both East and West. Writes Stanchev:
Only in the 1906s did scholars turn their attention to business in the Orthodox medieval world. Professors in theological academies in Communist countries carefully avoided the topic while economic historians, at best, studied the relations between religion and business for closed audiences, but most often they pretended the phenomenon did not exist.
Just a few years after Weber, Bulgakov managed to put together similar theoretical arguments and a set of historical evidence that allowed claiming origins of the capitalist spirit from Orthodox Christianity as well. For those who are familiar with the later Russian “scientific” philosophers’ disregard for facts and documents, it will be a surprise as to how rich Russian historiography in the nineteenth century has been.
The article is currently gated but should be available to non-subscribers later this year. Or you can subscribe now and avoid the wait.