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Two Bishops on the Ethics of the Market Economy

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Market, Ethics and Religion

Part of the book series: Ethical Economy ((SEEP,volume 62))

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Abstract

A remarkable discussion of the ethics of the capitalistic market economy took place in Denmark in the 1870s. The main contributors were Bishop H.L. Martensen and Bishop D.G. Monrad, two of the most prominent figures in the ecclesiastical history of Denmark. Martensen published a small pamphlet entitled “Socialism and Christianity” in 1874, in which he argued against capitalism, individualism and liberalism. He included the text almost unchanged in his major work “Christian Ethics” of 1878. Bishop Monrad replied in his book “The reply of Liberalism to Bishop Martensen”. Even today this debate remains relevant as perhaps the most serious Danish analysis ever of the ethics of the market economy.

An earlier version of the article has been presented at the 1st European conference of The Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture, September, 2014, University of Durham; the participants in this workshop has contributed with many useful comments. The topics of this chapter is also discussed in Danish in Kærgård (2018). The chapter is part of the research project What money can’t buy supported by The Danish Council for Independent Research, Humanities, FKK. The translation of the Danish quotations and general correction of the language is done carefully by Charles Woollen.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There are a lot of literature about both of them, see e. g. Arildsen (1932), Engelstoft (1982), Hauge (1944), Lindhardt (1981), Nyholm (1947), Nørgaard (1918) and Stewart (2012), but very little about their debate about market economi, almost only Svenstrup (2000) and Lein (1980).

  2. 2.

    The Lutheran-Evangelical church is the official church of Denmark with a place in the constitution and financially supported by the state. There is no Archbishop in this church, but the Bishop of Zealand (later Copenhagen) is in some sense the first among equals in the hierarchy of Danish bishops.

  3. 3.

    Johanne Luise Heiberg, in common with most other members of the upper class social elite of the time, was very skeptical with regard to the King’s Wife, the lower class girl Louise Rasmussen (“Countess Danner”), who had a child before she met the king. This fact, and Martensen’s close friendship with Johanne Luise Heiberg, was so well known, that the King opposed his appointment as Bishop in 1854.

  4. 4.

    Denmark changed from absolutism to a form of democracy in 1848–49.

  5. 5.

    This government is sometime called the “Million” because it included nine members, one of a kind (Monrad) and 6 zeros, or “nullities”.

  6. 6.

    All the quotes in the article are original in Danish and translated by the author and Charles Woollen.

  7. 7.

    The Midgard Serpent is a famous monster from the Nordic mythology.

  8. 8.

    The expression “a donner und blitz review” about Frederiksen’s contribution is taken from Rubin.

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Correspondence to Niels Kærgård .

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Kærgård, N. (2023). Two Bishops on the Ethics of the Market Economy. In: Kærgård, N. (eds) Market, Ethics and Religion. Ethical Economy, vol 62. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-08462-1_9

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