What about France and Spain? As Roman Catholic realms, they fell outside [Max] Weber's paradigm, but not Mr. Stark's. Mr. Stark argues that Christianity is necessary but not sufficient for the development of capitalism, which requires political freedom to thrive. Once the capitalist city-states of Italy lost their freedom, they became economic backwaters. Fine, but if the spirit of free inquiry and human equality is inherent in Christianity, why did Spain and France become despotisms in the first place? And, while we're at it, why is it that so many non-Christians - Chinese, Jews and Indians, for example - have taken to business and technology so brilliantly?The answer is not so difficult, I think. Firstly, there is only one truth and the Chinese, Jews and Indians, being rational and intelligent people have indeed found good bits of it, as did past civilizations like Greece. Under no circumstances can the west today (or yesterday) be understood to have a monopoly on the truth. Secondly, being Christian or even being Catholic is not to be one monolithic thing. We tend to think of Catholicism as synonymous with the great structure built by Gregory the VII. The reality, however, is that the church has had different sorts of relationships with the societies it has found itself in and it will continue to do so. Not all of these political structures will be as respectful of the truth as others - and any claims to be respectful have to be evaluated in light of actual practise and not simply proclamation.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The blogging ethic
Bloggers with great aspirations (or even aspirations of greatness) might want to check this list of ten ways to better your blog by Evan Schaeffer. These are all good, sensible ideas. My own two bits: no one ever tells you that the editorial decisions are much harder than the writing. If you didn't want to write, you wouldn't blog. The question of what to post and when comes with it and we learn as we go - learning from our own mistakes and others' successes. As much as I enjoy Althouse's frequent posting and wide range of topics I know that I simply don't have the time to do that. Even if I had a laptop there's no way I could post from work. I also admire bloggers who can challenge our comfortable assumptions and make connections that are both intriguing and sensible, not sensationalistic. Check out Liberty Corner, who tips us off to an interesting book review in the NYT and goes on to offer as much to chew on as the review - if not more. The book in question is The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodnet Stark. The Times reviewer challenges Stark's thesis by asking: