Political Economy as Natural Theology: Smith, Malthus and Their Followers (Hardback) book cover

Political Economy as Natural Theology

Smith, Malthus and Their Followers

By Paul Oslington

© 2018 – Routledge

164 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-07-26
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Description

Since the early 20th century, economics has been the dominant discourse in English-speaking countries, displacing Christian theology from its previous position of authority. This path-breaking book is a major contribution to the interdisciplinary dialogue between economics and religion.

Oslington tells the story of natural theology shaping political economy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, emphasising continuing significance of theological issues for the discipline of economics. Early political economists such as Adam Smith, Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke, William Paley, TR Malthus, Richard Whately, JB Sumner, Thomas Chalmers and William Whewell, extended the British scientific natural theology tradition of Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton to the social world. This extension nourished and shaped political economy as a discipline, influencing its theoretical framework, but perhaps more importantly helping legitimate political economy in the British universities and public policy circles. Educating the public in the principles of political economy had a central place in this religiously driven program. Natural theology also created tensions (especially reconciling economic suffering with divine goodness and power) that eventually contributed to its demise and the separation of economics from theology in mid-19th-century Britain. This volume highlights aspects of the story that are neglected in standard histories of economics, histories of science and contemporary theology.

Political Economy as Natural Theology is essential reading for all concerned with the origins of economics, the meaning and purpose of economic activity and the role of religion in contemporary policy debates.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Natural Theology: Philosophical and Historical Issues

Introduction

Natural theology and scripture

Varieties of natural theology

The British tradition of scientific natural theology

Natural theology, creation and providence

Natural theology and theodicy

Conclusion

3 Early English Theological Roots of Political Economy

Introduction

Joseph Butler(1692–1752)

Josiah Tucker (1713–99)

William Paley (1743–1805)

Edmund Burke (1729–97)

Conclusion

4 Adam Smith as Natural Theologian

Introduction

Adam Smith’s religious background

Adam Smith's invisible hand

Adam Smith’s theodicy

The future hope, nature and justice in Smith’s system.

Conclusion

5 Natural Theology and the Emergence of Political Economy: Stewart, Malthus, Sumner and Chalmers

Introduction

Further Scottish background: Dugald Stewart

Malthus' Principle of Population and its theodicy

Development of Malthus’ theodicy by JB Sumner

Malthus’ Scottish disciple Thomas Chalmers

Conclusion

6 Progress and Tension: Richard Whately and William Whewell

Introduction

Political Economy at Oxford: Nassau Senior and the responses by Richard Whately and JH Newman

Richard Whately

Political Economy at Cambridge: Richard Jones and William Whewell

Conclusion

7 The Demise of Natural Theology and Separation of Economics from Theology

Introduction

Explaining the separation of economics from theology

Explaining the demise of natural theology

The demise of natural theology as the separation of economics from theology

Evolution as a lost opportunity to renew natural theology

Subsequent developments in Britain, continental Europe and North America

Conclusion

8 Reflections on the Contemporary Relationship between Economics and Theology

Introduction

What can we learn from this episode about what promotes fruitful and unfruitful exchange between economists and theologians?

Frameworks for contemporary engagement

Appendix: analysis of key terms in English books

About the Author

Paul Oslington is Professor of Economics and Dean of Business at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, Australia. He previously held a joint appointment as Professor in the Schools of Business and Theology at Australian Catholic University, and before that Associate Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, along with visiting positions at the University of Oxford, University of British Columbia, Regent College Vancouver and Princeton Theological Seminary and University. He is also an honorary Research Professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra.

About the Series

Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy

In recent years, there has been widespread criticism of mainstream economics. This has taken many forms, from methodological critiques of its excessive formalism, to concern about its failure to connect with many of the most pressing social issues. This series provides a forum for research which is developing alternative forms of economic analysis. Reclaiming the traditional 'political economy' title, it refrains from emphasising any single school of thought, but instead attempts to foster greater diversity within economics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUS000000
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / General