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European History Researh Paper

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European History Research Paper

The Protestant Reformation

This was a schism started in the 16th century by western Christians particularly Martin Luther and John Calvin. In 1517, Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses were posted, which catalyzed the spirit of protesting against the ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, its rituals, leadership, and doctrines (Hillerbrand 26). It resulted in the establishment of national Protestant churches. Earlier contributors to this spirit of protest were the Black Death, the Western Schism, and the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the invention of the print media.

The Roman Catholic Church, in a bid to counter this protestant movement, formed an ecumenical council named the Council of Trent. Northern Europe, except Ireland, turned to be Protestant as Britain and Netherlands. Southern Europe remained as an affiliate of the Roman Catholic Church while battles ended the courtesy of this Roman Catholic-Protestant contest in Central Europe.

The largest Protestant churches at that time were the Lutherans and the reformed churches, which were mainly in Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Scandinavia. Since the official beginning of the Protestant movement in 1517, with the publishing of the Ninety-Five Theses, the European warfare around this issue finished only in 1648, when a peace agreement, the “Treaty of Westphalia” was signed.

Some priests opposed the teachings and doctrines, especially the issue of indulgence. Another issue of concern was the corruption and the power which was vested in the pope, namely legislation, financial control, and judicial appeals, the legitimacy of which was questioned by Luther. The power of the pope, termed as “indulgence”, was challenged. In 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

In October 1517, Luther hanged his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg Saxony (Hillerbrand 42). There were protests against the power of the pope, the purgatory doctrines, the compulsory celibacy of the clergy, the intercession of saints and devotion to them, as well as the church’s concentration on the Virgin Mary.

In later years, the Protestant movement changed according to doctrinal differences. Luther first differed with Zwingli, then with John Calvin. The result of this was the formation of several denominations such as the Lutheran, the Reformed Church, the Puritan denominations, and the Anglican Church in Britain.

Most Protestant churches derived from German denominations. The corruption in the Roman Catholic Church caused wars in western nations and was termed as “schism” of the Western Christian Church.  The Council of Constance, launched by the Roman Catholic Church, could not stop this schism as well as the war in Bohemia (1378-1416) (Slavicek 28). Sixtus IV established the sale of indulgence that was meant for the dead. This created a new source of revenue with agents all over Europe (1471-1484). Thereafter, Alexander IV (Pope from 1492 to 1503), despite the compulsory celibacy of the clergy, fathered seven children by at least two mistresses. This, however, was not the main reason for Luther’s Thesis, fourteen years after the death of Pope Alexander VI. He was more agitated by the sale of indulgences of the same Pope.

Most of the Protestants date their movement to the 16th century, particularly referred to as Magisterial Reformation. This enjoyed state support, unlike the Radical Reformation which was deprived of this support. However, there are Protestant churches that dated their origin from the 15th century the Unity of Brethren and the Bohemian Brethren.

Lockean System of Government

John Locke, an eminent philosopher of the 17th century, wrote his Two Treatises of Government in 1960. In this book, he wrote about democracy and how power should be separated in a democratic state. In his view, a government’s main work is to provide security for its people and their property. If there was a failure to accomplish any of these tasks, people held a right to overthrow it. In other words, the people held perpetual power to disband a government that does not provide security for its people and their property (Dunn 36).

He wrote about legislative, executive, and federative power. Locke suggested that since the laws that govern society can be made in such a short time, then there was a dire need of keeping a permanent legislative body (Dunn 42). He also insisted that there was the need to ensure that the people, who are given the power to make laws, should not be involved concurrently in their enforcement. The reason was that being responsible for the execution of laws, they could be tempted, due to their human nature, to exempt themselves from such rules. Ultimately, such a move could compromise regulations and order in the societies. He, therefore, recommended a separate body of people, known as the executives, to enforce the laws. This body needed to be permanent. The reason was that unlike introducing laws, which required a short time, their enforcement was a continuous process that had no end as long as the society existed. This also ensured that the legislature was subjected to the same laws they introduced. The argument is that if one is subjected to the same laws he makes, he will do a good job as he is a victim of unsuitable regulations.

Federal power exists where different societies are involved. Although there are natural laws of how one relates to his human counterpart, it does not prevent controversies from arising among members of different societies. Locke contends that in such a situation if one is said to be injured by another person of a different society, this becomes a matter of public interest. The afflicted are represented by his society as one body against the other society. Such relations between societies make the difference in peace, war, alliances, and coalitions, which Locke saw as the federal power (Locke and Bernhard 53). He proposed this power to be given to a party different from the legislature and the executive of the given society. This party had to deal with inter-societal matters to the best of their knowledge or, as dictated by their skills, in diverse matters for the advantage of their society.

Concerning the separation of power, Locke wrote about subordination. Here, the legislature was supreme. The executive and federal governments were subordinate to the legislature. However, the people were given the power to disband the legislature as an act of self-preservation whenever the legislature failed to represent the interest of the same people, who instituted it, or schemes against them. In this sense, the people held the perpetual power to save themselves from the legislature whenever there was a need.

In some instances, the executive is comprised of just one person who also participated in legislation and no laws could be passed without his consent (Dunn 48). This made the person supreme in such a state. But, due to his oath and allegiance, the person was not supreme. His office and the role he held were dictated by the law that governs his roles. People could evoke the position of this person when there was a need to preserve the community.

Locke and Bernhard postulate that the legislature could also withdraw the power of the executive and the federal party when the administration of the laws was not satisfactorily administered (62). People had a right to equal representation. The legislature was not permanent since it was elected at given intervals. People had to be given the chance to elect their leaders. If the legislature was sporadically elected, people had to be involved whenever the chance availed itself. These two parts of power-sharing and power subordination comprised a Lockean system of government.

Smithian Capitalism. Smith is celebrated for his policies which are believed to have created free markets. He did not coin the term laissez-faire, which is a French word meaning “leave alone”. His name is constantly mentioned in the field of economics due to this term. His book The Wealth of Economics is seen as a landmark in the field of free markets. Smith focused on the government involvement in the economy, especially where it interfered in the free flow of the economical markets (Perelman 32). He approved instances where the government intervened in the market with a net benefit achieved consequently. For instance, he approved the government involvement in fields such as compulsory health benefits, drugs, and food safety acts, discriminative taxation to avoid things such as luxurious spending.

Adam Smith was against mercantilism, which was present in the government’s control of foreign trade. He defended voluntary market relations where anybody who works hard and has capital will reach opulence. This is where the views of Adam Smith and Karl Marx diverge. Karl Marx did not believe that self-interest would lead to benefit all; he was rather of the view that it would lead to anarchy, dissolution of private property, and crisis (Perelman 64).

According to Brass, the role of the government was to control institutions, such as banks, create infrastructure, provide goods of a public nature, issue copyrights and patents, provide security and justice, but not get involved in the control of the business (67). However, Daniel Klein, another economist, criticizes Smith as the founder of free markets. The reason is that according to Smith, the market was not entirely free from some forms of governmental control.

This deterring of luxurious spending per se was covered with the proposal in his book Wealth of Nations, where he suggested that taxation should be commensurate with ability and income. Several journals, such as The Wall Street Journal, viewed Smith as a promoter of the laissez-faire form of capitalism. The reason is that when a market is controlled by market forces, such as the supply and demand of services, goods, and labor, capitalism will inevitably influence the prices. This is termed “Smithian Capitalism”.

Marx Weber wrote his books in Germany. Similar to Karl Marx and others, he was profoundly involved in economic works. Weber reviewed religion sociology and its influence on economic sociology. He particularly considered that ascetic Protestantism was one of the causes of western capitalism, which was market-driven, and the rise of rational-legal states.

Weber argued that secularization that came after ascetic Protestantism and rationalization, forced people to change traditions and ideas that were otherwise not practical, which eventually led them to calculated capitalism (Brass 63). Weber appreciated individualism more than society and argued that individual actions ultimately cause a change in it. He cited objectivity and subjectivity to an extent that culture was involved. He concluded that there was no absolute objectivity when there was culture.

Adam Smith and Karl Marx were the proponents of two theories who sought to delineate the nature of economics in society, and how these economics affected the individual. There were different movements undertaken during the time of these two proponents and their theories, such as the industrial revolution. This prompted the need to find a new vision concerning the way the governments conducted commerce in different nations. Karl Marx was a German revolutionary socialist, and Adam Smith was a Scottish economist. Karl Marx promotes the idea that defeats the rationale behind capitalism. He is of the view that capitalism is enabled by the individual’s capital. Therefore, this drives the individual daily. The individual as a trader is not able to operate in a capitalist society without this capital, as the system is ruled by it.

He also gives an account of the exchange value and equates the commodities that are an advantage of capitalism for labor. The reason is that labor is a substance of value, similarly to commodities. The individual character of the laborers is obliterated in capitalism to reach a homogenous exchange of value (Pack 113). Therefore, he claims that at the end of the process in capitalism, to gain profit, objectification of labor is required. Thereby, labor is not viewed according to qualitative one, but quantitative. It does not concern the quality of an individual’s labor, but its total amount. The difference between the theories of Karl Marx and Smith is that Smith concentrated on wealth, whereas Marx concentrated on value.

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