Idols of Nations? Dismay of Nations?

I have been putting together an outline for a new book in Fortress Press’s new ‘God and Mammon’ series and am pondering a title. The book will be a critical study of the crucial but unfortunate role of the Bible in the construction of classical economic theories of capitalism. The main focus will be on: Grotius, an Arminian theologian, statesman and propagator of the doctrine of the ‘free seas’; Thomas Hobbes and the economic Behemoth; John Locke’s problem in arguing for private property, given that it didn’t exist in Genesis (For Locke, the Bible ‘has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter’. Given that it contains infallible truth, he vowed, ‘I shall immediately condemn and quit any opinion of mine, as soon as I am shown that it is contrary to any revelation in the holy scripture’); and the Reverend Thomas Malthus unique feat of locating the problem of theodicy at the heart of political economy. I also deal with Adam Smith, David Ricardo and J.S. Mill, although in their cases (into the 19th century), a strong moral element sublates the Bible (Malthus is the link).

Anyway, a title. Given that the title of Adam Smith’s slightly influential work, Wealth of Nations, is drawn from Isaiah 60:5 (and 61:6; 66:12), I have been doing some reading and came up with:

Dismay of Nations (from Jer 10:1).

Idols of Nations (Jer 14:22; Ps 135:15)

Abominations of Nations (2 Chr 36:14)

I’m leaning towards the second, but haven’t decided yet.

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13 thoughts on “Idols of Nations? Dismay of Nations?

  1. Sounds like some really interesting themes here that should lead to an interesting read. I can’t say I have too much knowledge on this but it certainly sounds worthwhile to me!
    Would you mind checking out my blog? It’s part of an assignment I have at uni so would be really grateful for any response if you have a few moments. Thanks.

  2. Weakening of Nations (Isa. 14.12): describing, in older English translations, and I guess Adam Smith’s(?), the action of Lucifer, who had aspired to ascend to the highest Heaven but instead fell to Sheol. That way you get to keep the “W”, an advantage over Idols of Nations.

    What do you reckon about the oft-touted irreconcilable opposition between Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Moral Sentiments – a case of an ideology (liberalism, most pure) and its (Derridean) supplement?

    1. Some argue they’re compatible, just stressing two parts of human nature; others that they contradict. That’s not what is interesting, but the shift to moral underpinnings is. Mill is pretty bad on this stuff as well, but the link is Rev Malthus and the theodicy of political economy.

      1. The biblical opposition to hoarding wealth along with its opposition to the notion of “private property” (which is why I think Proudhon’s aphorism about property being theft is taken from the Church Fathers who, in turn, took it from the Bible).

        You want specific references?

        (PS — you may enjoy “Faith and Wealth” by Justo Gonzalez, if you haven’t read it already.)

  3. Isn’t (bourgeois) economics the dismal science? Anyway, the book sounds like a great gift for all my petty bourgeois friends who thoughtlessly (and oh-so-radically-critically) dismiss Marxism/communism as a kind of religion. By the way, I just started reading A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and have to share this (though I’m sure you must have long made use of it): “In considering bread as a use-value, we are concerned with its properties as an article of food and by no means with the labour of the farmer, miller, baker, etc. Even if the labour required were reduced by 95 per cent as a result of some invention, the usefulness of a loaf of bread would remain quite unaffected. It would lose not a single particle of its use-value even if it dropped ready-made from the sky.[…] Labour as a source of material wealth was well known both to Moses, the law-giver, and to Adam Smith, the customs official.” And the accompanying footnote: “Friedrich List has never been able to grasp the difference between labour as a producer of something useful, a use-value, and labour as a producer of exchange-value, a specific social form of wealth (since his mind being occupied with practical matters was not concerned with understanding); he therefore regarded the modern English economists as mere plagiarists of Moses of Egypt.”

  4. Hmm.. singular, to correspond to ‘Wealth’. Plus the single idol would be Mammon, no? My supervisor wrote a well-cited article on Adam Smith’s theology..I’ll email you the link.

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