Novak, Michael. "How Christianity Created Capitalism."
The Wall Street Journal December 23, 1999
Capitalism, it's usually assumed, flowered around the same time as the Enlightenment -- the 18th century -- and, like the Enlightenment, entailed a diminution of organized religion. In fact, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was the main locus for the first flowerings of Capitalism. Max Weber (1864-1920) located the origin of capitalism in modern Protestant cities, but today's historians find capitalism much earlier than that in rural areas, where monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, began to rationalize economic life.
It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the pre-conditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation and new undertakings.