Religion and the Decline of Capitalism

Religion and the Decline of Capitalism

Religion and the Decline of Capitalism

Religion and the Decline of Capitalism

Excerpt

This piece of writing is an essay in the interpretation of our time. Its theme was developed in a course of the Scott Holland Memorial lectures first given at Oxford in the autumn of 1949. In the following year an abbreviated version of them was broadcast on the Third Programme in a series delivered before a public audience at Broadcasting House. In preparing them for publication as a book I have slightly enlarged upon some points in the lectures, but I have not thought it desirable to eliminate all expressions which indicate their original lecture form.

The subject was of course suggested by the first series of Holland Lectures given by Mr. R. H. Tawney in 1922, which was published in 1926 under the title of Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. Mr. Tawney was interpreting historic changes already three centuries old. My essay deals with the contemporary situation and its beginnings only a century back. Apart from its tentative character, which is the only appropriate one for an assessment of the significance of events in which we are still involved, my essay can claim no such command of historical material as that which marked Mr. Tawney's erudition. In my opening chapter I have tried to show the connection between the problems he handled and those with which I am concerned.

While the broadcast version of these lectures was in progress, Mr. George Bernard Shaw, shortly before his death, wrote to me saying that its title would lead to a confusion with the work of Sidney andBeatrice Webb, 'The Decay of Capitalism'. The Webbs' book was in fact called The Decay of Capitalist Civilization. Mr. Shaw's main point, however, was that both titles were mistaken, for, in his own words:

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