To better understand the moral aspirations behind free markets, sub-project A undertakes three lines of research:

  1. We will establish a link between a re-interpreted ‘Christian-bourgeois’ culture and the emergence of free markets.
  2. Explicit attention will be paid to the work of economist Adam Smith (1723-1790), who is by many considered to be the ‘father of modern economics’. 
  3. We will also look at different views on human flourishing in different ages an religions.

Below some further details on each of these three research lines.

A1. Bourgeois Culture 

The first part (A1) aims to reconstruct the concept of ‘bourgeois culture’ as an inherently moral project, which derives its moral sources particularly from certain strands of Christianity, including its cooperative, ‘other-related’ virtues. The research question for this project is:

‘How do new (non-Marxian or post-Marxian) interpretations of Western bourgeois culture as a moral project expand our understanding of the moral aspirations behind the emergence of free markets as a key element of that bourgeois culture?’

A2. Adam Smith

We will also examine Adam Smith’s seminal works on morality and economics in the context of the ‘bourgeois’ culture of which he was part. Focus of the project will in particular be on the Protestant/Scottish Presbyterian influence on both the emergence of bourgeois culture and Smith’s work.The research question for the second part (A2) is

‘How can an exploration of Adam Smith’s Scottish-Presbyterian background (both theological and sociological) shed new light on the ideals behind and the moral status of the free market as he envisioned it?’

A3. Views on Human Flourishing

What ‘human flourishing’ is, has been a matter of millennia of reflection and experience. Throughout these ages, world religions have developed various – sometimes convergent, sometimes divergent – accounts of human flourishing.

How do various religions and worldviews define human flourishing in relation to the market and what are their views on virtues, vices, human weakness and responsibility in this regard?

Research Methodologies

The project uses a combination of research methodologies:

  • critical conceptual analysis of key concepts in main-stream meta-narratives of modern markets (esp. the concept ‘bourgeois’ in relation to ‘self-interest’ and ‘virtues’)
  • narrative integration of alternative interpretations of ‘bourgeois’ in relation to free markets
  • contextual, comparative text analysis of theological and ‘theo-economic’ texts (Calvin, Hutcheson, Smith)
  • comparative religious concept-analysis

Researchers in this Project

Resulting Publications

2020

Adam Smith in Theological Perspectove

Ballor, Jordan J

Adam Smith in Theological Perspectove Online

2020.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Interdisciplinary Dialogue and Scarcity in Economic Terminology

Ballor, Jordan J

Interdisciplinary Dialogue and Scarcity in Economic Terminology Journal Article

Journal of Markets & Morality, 23 (1), pp. 131–137, 2020.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

In Adam Smith’s Own Words: The Role of Virtues in the Relationship Between Free Market Economies and Societal Flourishing, A Semantic Network Data‑Mining Approach

Graafland, Johan; Wells, Thomas

In Adam Smith’s Own Words: The Role of Virtues in the Relationship Between Free Market Economies and Societal Flourishing, A Semantic Network Data‑Mining Approach Journal Article

Journal of Business Ethics, 2020.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

2019

The Moral Status of Wealth Creation in Early-Modern Reformed Confessions

Ballor, Jordan J; van der Kooi, Cornelis

The Moral Status of Wealth Creation in Early-Modern Reformed Confessions Journal Article

Reformation & Renaissance Review , 21 (3), pp. 188-202, 2019.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Marktwerking, eigenbelang en … deugden; Adam Smith en recent onderzoek

Graafland, Johan

Marktwerking, eigenbelang en … deugden; Adam Smith en recent onderzoek Journal Article

Radix (tijdschrift over geloof en wetenschap), 45 (1 (april 2019)), pp. 31-43, 2019.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

2017

Reformation Protestantism and the “Spirit” of Capitalism

Ballor, Jordan J

Reformation Protestantism and the “Spirit” of Capitalism Book Chapter

Melloni, Alberto (Ed.): Martin Luther; A Christian between Reforms and Modernity (1517-2017), pp. 965–982, De Gruyter, Berlin, 2017, ISBN: 9783110499025.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

A Biblical Myth at the Origin of Smith's The Wealth of Nations

Ballor, Jordan J

A Biblical Myth at the Origin of Smith's The Wealth of Nations Journal Article

Journal of the History of Economic Thought , 39 (2), pp. 223–38, 2017, ISSN: 1053-8372.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Also available in: Dutch