Economics as Religion: Persistence of the Theological?

Nathan Coombs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new literature on economics and religion seeks to uncover the implicit theology of mainstream economics. Recent works by Robert Nelson, Philip Goodchild, Charles Taylor, and Giorgio Agamben, whilst offering sometimes radically different takes on the issue, all argue that the liberal notion of an economic domain in which the pursuit of self-interest leads to the mutual good owes certain debts to Christian theology, and in particular the natural law tradition. This article introduces the literature and offers critical reflections upon it in order to suggest ways in which it could be methodologically sharpened. It questions whether the term theology could be replaced by that of ideology, thereby reorienting the discussion towards evaluating to what extent theology really remains determinate for the discipline. Suggesting the term ‘economic secularization’ as an alternative to that of ‘economic theology’, the article concludes by recommending the use of Hans Blumenberg’s methodological criteria for discerning the secularization of theological concepts as a way to judge if economics remains encumbered by a persistence of the theological.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • economics
  • religion
  • theology
  • secularization

Cite this