Tawney 2

A few gems  from one of the great 20th century Anglican social and economic scholars, R.H. Tawney.

On the medieval era:

The significance of its contribution consists, not in its particular theories as to prices and interest, which recur in all ages, whenever the circumstances of the economic environment expose consumer and borrower to extortion, but in its insistence that society is a spiritual organism, not an economic machine, and that economic activity, which is one subordinate element within a vast and complex unity, requires to be controlled and repressed by reference to moral ends for which it supplies the material means. So merciless is the tyranny of economic appetites, so prone to self-aggrandizement the empire of economic interests, that a doctrine which confines them to their proper sphere, as the servant, not the master, of civilization, may reasonable be regarded as among the pregnant truisms which are a permanent element in any sane philosophy (“The Ideal and The Reality”).

On self-interest:

A religious theory of society necessarily regards with suspicion all doctrines which claim a large space for the unfettered play of economic self-interest (“The Land Question”).

On the economic reformation in England:

In their view of religion as embracing all sides of life, and in their theory of the particular social obligations which religion involved, the most representative thinkers of the Church of England had no intention of breaking with traditional doctrines. In the rooted suspicion of economic motives which caused them to damn each fresh manifestation of the spirit of economic enterprise as a new form of the sin of covetousness, as in their insistence that the criteria of economic relations and of the social order were to be sought, not in practical expediency, but in truths of which the Church was the guardian and the exponent, the utterances of men of religion, in the reign of Elizabeth, in spite of the revolution which had intervened, had more affinity with the doctrines of the Schoolmen than with those which were to be fashionable after the Restoration (“Religious Theory and Social Policy”).

Quotes taken from Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.