NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Religion, Longevity, and Cooperation: The Case of the Craft Guild.

Gary Richardson, Michael McBride

NBER Working Paper No. 14004
Issued in May 2008
NBER Program(s):   DAE

When the mortality rate is high, repeated interaction alone may not sustain cooperation, and religion may play an important role in shaping economic institutions. This insight explains why during the fourteenth century, when plagues decimated populations and the church promoted the doctrine of purgatory, guilds that bundled together religious and occupational activities dominated manufacturing and commerce. During the sixteenth century, the disease environment eased, and the Reformation dispelled the doctrine of purgatory, necessitating the development of new methods of organizing industry. The logic underlying this conclusion has implications for the study of institutions, economics, and religion throughout history and in the developing world today.

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Published: Richardson, Gary & McBride, Michael, 2009. "Religion, longevity, and cooperation: The case of the craft guild," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 172-186, August.

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