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