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Joseph Campanella, The Protestant Ethic of Development

Campanella, José. “The Protestant Ethic of Development.” PhD diss., Boston University, 2010.


The study of factors determining economic and political development underscores decision-making processes and preferences associated with specific religious beliefs. Max Weber assessed this relationship in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as the effect of emotions and Protestant beliefs on increased levels of economic development. This association has been confirmed by global macro-level studies demonstrating that a Protestant “sense of freedom” is related to increased levels of GDP per capita and subjective well-being. Under the name of Palpational Rationality (PR) this dissertation offers modifications to the template of Economic Rationalism (ER) that Weber used to explain this association. ER focuses on Calvin’s doctrine of Predestination and the psychological force Weber attributed to election-related anxiety. Conversely, PR relies on Calvin’s view of Christian Freedom and his emphasis on the inner perception of God’s love, referred to here as Sublime Palpation. Accordingly, PR underscores the liberating effect that the Sublime Palpation of Christian Freedom has on minimizing the negative impact of innate feelings like anxiety when confronting complex social and moral choices. PR advances a multidisciplinary approach that integrates into political science recent neurobehavioral evidence supporting the effects that emotions and beliefs have on decision making. It also relies on recent neurobehavioral evidence in favor of an innate human capability to perceive meta-somatic images that can enhance decision making. Neuroimaging studies have provided first confirmation of PR’s framework by showing evidence of neural markers among Protestant believers that neutralize anxiety, and minimize the experience of errors affecting complex decision-making processes. The Supra-Somatic Marker Hypothesis developed by PR suggests a progressive correction of the subjective distortions and errors produced by innate feelings on the value and probability of outcomes. PR includes this supra-somatic effect in Bernoulli’s function for the subjective distortion of the value of outcomes, and in Allais’ model for the subjective distortion of the distribution and dispersion of an outcome’s probability. This neural marking effect substantiates PR’s alternative decision-making model, which aims to provide a more realistic framework for the design and implementation of public policy in the complex contexts faced by decision makers in the developing world.

Keywords: Christian Freedom, Decision Making, Neurobehavioral Science, John Calvin, Political and Economic development, Max Weber.  


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