From Axial Spirituality to Laissez-faireism: A Genealogy of the Disembedding of the Economy in Charles Taylor

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Abstract

A wholesome economy presumes a community in which it is embedded and according to whose moral outlook it is organised. This means that economic activities obey the same laws as non-economic activities, such as friendship and parenthood. The reversal of this order therefore entails the corruption of fundamental human relationships, and hence the dissolution of the social body. This disorder is our present condition. The economy is conceived as an autonomous sphere with its own amoral laws. Hence, the self-seeking
attitude is warranted when we partake in economic activities. Even worse, the calculating way of thinking has infiltrated what should have been non-economic domains of human life. In this article, I reconstruct the long historical path to this topsy-turvy world, largely by drawing on Charles Taylor’s history of ideas. Such corruption is often perceived as a modern phenomenon and is blamed on unbelief. Others have pointed out the monstrosities that arise when the economy, and consequently, economic actors are no longer subordinated to the common good. Contrary to these tendencies, I will show that the Christian urge for perfection, order and uniformity played a role in this regard. This article adds to existing scholarship by highlighting the contribution of Christianity to the
anthropocentric turn and the neutralization of vices. These are the necessary conditions for the coming-to-be of laissez-faireism, and hence for the disembedding of the economy from the human community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-168
JournalSchweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte
Volume113
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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Keywords

  • agape
  • anthropocentrism
  • cosmos
  • deism
  • instrumental rationality
  • laissez-faireism
  • mechanism
  • nominalism
  • Reform

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