The Role of Providence in the Social Order: An Essay in Intellectual History

The Role of Providence in the Social Order: An Essay in Intellectual History

JACOB YINER
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 113
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1ch3
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    The Role of Providence in the Social Order: An Essay in Intellectual History
    Book Description:

    The essays in this book were originally presented by Professor Viner as the 1966 Jayne Lectures of the American Philosophical Society. The relationship between religious doctrines and economic theory and behavior had long interested Professor Viner, and the conclusions he discussed represented years of thoughtful study. They focus in particular on the way in which providence was used to justify existing economic and social conditions.

    The author points out that providence favors trade among peoples in order to promote universal brotherhood; providence also creates social inequality because it is part of the divine plan. Providence designed a world in which commerce was necessary, in which good business benefited not only the individual, but all mankind, in which inequality in rank and income was part of the scheme of things. Why, then, the evils of over-rigid mercantilism, or selfish profiteering, of undeserved and hopeless poverty? Professor Viner shows that in discussing such questions the Fathers of the Church, the scholastics, the theologians of the seventeenth century, and the philosophers of the eighteenth laid the foundations for modern economic thought.

    Originally published in 1977.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6886-5
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Joseph R. Strayer

    In 1966 Professor Viner was invited to give the Jayne Lectures of the American Philosophical Society. He had long been interested in the relationship between religious doctrines and economic theory and behavior, and in these lectures he presented some of the conclusions that he had reached after years of thoughtful study. He concerned himself especially with the way in which the idea of providence was used to justify existing economic and social conditions. Providence favors trade among peoples in order to promote universal brotherhood; providence also creates social inequality because it is part of the divine plan. These and other...

  4. I. The Cosmic Order in the Service of Man
    (pp. 1-26)

    I am presenting these lectures to you as merely an exercise in the history of ideas. The particular set of ideas which I will examine relates to the role of providence in the social order as seen, primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by intellectuals in general, and by theologians, philosophers of various species, and economists in particular. Some of these ideas no doubt had a substantial influence on the course of history in these centuries, but as to this I venture no claims. It has been said of the ideas of political philosophers and economists that almost on...

  5. II. The Providential Elements in the Commerce of Nations
    (pp. 27-54)

    In this lecture I deal with the history of two providentialist ideas relating to the economic status of man living in society which have played roles in the evolution of economic thought although mostly without having caught the notice of historians of that evolution. These ideas have ancient origins.

    The earliest in time of these two ideas expounds a providential relative abundance of necessaries as compared with luxuries. Plato, early in the fourth century, b.c., stated that only what is rare commands a high price and that water, which is the best of all things, is also the cheapest. He...

  6. III. The Invisible Hand and Economic Man
    (pp. 55-85)

    By the latter half of the seventeenth century, in both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant countries of northern and western Europe, ethical and economic thought had undergone a large measure of “secularization” or, in what seems to be its equivalent in French common usage, of “laicization.” This was to proceed further in the eighteenth century. These terms are liable to be misleading, however, each in its own way. As they have been used, they do not mean a complete breakaway of ethical and economic thought from religious ideas, nor a complete transfer of the responsibility of expounding ethical and...

  7. IV. The Providential Origin of Social Inequality
    (pp. 86-113)

    In the public announcement of my series of lectures I gave as the title for this final lecture a verse from a hymn:

    The rich man in his castle,

    The poor man at his gate,

    God made them high or lowly,

    And order’d their estate.

    A more prosaic title for this lecture would be: “The Providential Origin of Social Inequality.”

    A word may be appropriate here as to the place in history of the hymn from which I have quoted. As I will elaborate on later, the history of ideas relating providence to social inequality has two major strains: first,...