Fellowship versus selfish individualism

I have been reading about the English historian and well known Labour thinker of the early 20th century R. H. Tawney (his most famous work was Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 1926). I like this comment on Tawney by Adam Seligman:

“The whole idea of society as composed of individuals who came to be conceived of as the profit-maximising individuals of current exchange theory was abhorrent to Tawney’s view of society and of the individual as well. For Tawney’s view of society was primarily as a moral community, united by…a shared vocabulary of worth and value”.

As Seligman points out, Tawney found the moral authority for ethical conduct in his Christian faith, “in its call…to obey God and not worldly power where the demands of conscience and … power collided”. This was based on  Christian belief in human equality before God. People were not equally clever or virtuous, but were “of equal value”.

[Adam B. Seligman, “R. H. Tawney and Scholarship”, Society, 35, 1998, p.64].

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