The Birth of Western Economy: Economic Aspects of the Dark Ages

By Robert Latouche | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Christian Church: Its Economic Doctrine: The Result of its Triumph

A THIRD FACTOR PLAYED its part in shaping the economic development of Europe: the fact of Christianity, the triumph of the Church. It is always difficult to measure with any precision the effect on an economic system of what one philosopher has called an 'idea-force'. The modern tendency is to under-estimate it, and a new discipline, the history of economic facts, is particularly inclined to bring back into prominence the material elements of human activity, too much neglected before our own day, and to stress their imperious determinism. The reaction, we hasten to add, was justified, since a century of financial stability, and the cushioned ease which for several generations prevailed in the circles in which history was written, made our predecessors insensitive to economic realities. The impact of two world wars has revived our awareness of them and has driven us to a salutary examination of conscience and a revision of outworn concepts; but certain of our contemporaries, dazzled by the essentially quantitative character of our industrial civilization, have perhaps been tempted to attach too little importance to certain factors which, though counting for much less than in the past, when their influence was considerable, are still to be reckoned with.

Christianity is one such factor, all the more so in that it originated in categorical imperatives. For this reason its rapid spread affected the economy of the Western world. Amongst

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