The rise of early-modern economics is commonly linked to a secularization of economic thought. Mercantilism, the first of its currents, largely developed outside the sphere of influence of Church and theology and unlike scholastic economics analyzed economic problems from a non-religious point of view. However, unlike what the intensive controversy on the Weber-thesis suggested, the relationship between early-modern economics and theology should not be reduced to ethical questions. Of course, that economic thought secularized in terms of a disappearance of religiously-inspired ethical considerations is not to say that it did so in every respect. Traditionally, another possible connection between theology and the economy was the doctrine of divine providence.

This dissertation provides a more or less representative overview of ‘economic providentialism’ in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The central questions are what the content of these economic-theological ideas was, in what language they were voiced and what function they had. The central chapters discuss five different ways in God and the economy were being associated. The areas of international trade, division of labour, value and price, self-interest, and poverty and inequality all showed traces of divine influence. Instead of desecrating the economic domain, early-modern writers on economics more than ever before granted God a role in it. Nevertheless, the way in which this was done testifies to a process of transformation. The traditional idea of a caring and governing God was gradually emptied of content and was mainly employed for explanatory and strategic reasons. In the early-modern period, the doctrine of providence not so much disappeared as was transformed.

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L. van Bunge (Wiep)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of Philosophy

Hengstmengel, J. (2015, November 26). Divine Oeconomy. Retrieved from