The Mechanisms and Morality of Capitalism: A Brief Christian Critique

  • Dennis Hiebert Providence University College
Keywords: Capitalism, Christianity, Morality, Social Structure, Desire


After centuries of near consensus among Western Christians about the virtuous merits
of capitalism, the Great Recession of 2008 shook cultural confidence in it, and triggered a more
honest and earnest debate about its morality. Reviewed here are sample Christian defenses of
capitalism, Marxist critiques of capitalism, and Christian critiques of capitalism, all of which
were voiced in the decade following the Great Recession. Focus is maintained mostly on the
internal mechanisms or social structure of capitalism, not on the morality of individual
capitalists operating within it. Drawing primarily on theological ethicist Daniel Bell Jr.’s analysis,
ten characteristics of capitalism are then identified which constitute what he terms homo
economicus, the capitalist’s anthropology, and which contrast sharply with Christian moral
imperatives. Concluding Christian assessments of capitalism point to the need for, and
possibilities of, systemic economic change.