Economic analysis (as we understand the term today) first appeared in France at the end of the seventeenth century as a consequence of Jansenist theodicy. Throughout the eighteenth century, political economy (the study of wealth, and not to be confused with economic analysis) was supposed to be compatible with Christian belief and of service to Newtonian natural theology. This changed suddenly in 1798. Thomas Robert Malthus's first Essay inaugurated “economics” (the study of scarcity), seemingly incompatible with the Christian religion. Richard Whately's distinction between “scientific” and “religious” knowledge protected each from the other for a while. But Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory seemed to destroy that distinction, and so to discredit religion and theology. A variety of strategies for relating economics to theology has been adopted since that time by those economists who wish to remain religious believers.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| December 01 2008
A. M. C. Waterman; The Changing Theological Context of Economic Analysis since the Eighteenth Century. History of Political Economy 1 December 2008; 40 (5): 121–142. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-2007-063
Download citation file: