Reforming Capitalism

Reading: Capitalism and Progress by Bob Goudzwaard.

The book traces the foundations of capitalism through the philosophical trends beginning with the Renaissance. I’m not through the book yet, so:

a) don’t ruin it for me.
b) if I assume too much on the part of Goudzwaard, don’t be too upset at me.

What has been most interesting so far is the case Goudzwaard makes for the distinctly humanist roots of capitalism. Many people like to associate the rise of capitalism with the rise of Calvinism, but Goudzwaard makes his case against that by tracing the gradual shift from a God-centered philosophy/society in the Middle Ages to a human-centered society by the end of the Enlightenment. While the fathers of modern free market economics, most notably Adam Smith, were deists, Goudzwaard points out that their watchmaker God was a not a direct influence on the rise of the free market economy. What was a greater influence was the increasing shift to faith not in God, but in human progress.

His points are well-taken. The Enlightenment was about throwing off the mantle of the Church, and belief in God, and embracing the power of humanity, and the promise of the progress humanity could achieve. While Calvin has done much in the redemption of labor, to claim that Calvinism and Puritanism have been driving forces in the development of the free market economy does seem to ignore history. But if Goudzwaard is right, what claim do we have for redeeming the institution of capitalism? Remember that I haven’t the book yet, and Goudzwaard suggests he has an alternative solution for the ills that capitalism has brought with it. But, at the moment, based on his survey on the philosophical foundations of capitalism, how do we seek to redeem an institution that was the offshoot of a movement to marginalize Christianity?