In his controversial work, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism, the German sociologist Max Weber (1852–1937) points to a positive relationship between Protestantism (especially Calvinism) and the rise of Capitalism. The 16th century Reformation in Europe coincided with the rise of early Capitalism (1500-1760). Since the church was such an integral part of society, many of the church leaders in the Low Countries also played a leading role in the rise of Capitalism. The results were religious, political and social reform and economic growth.
The Belgic Confession, as one of the three main creeds of the Protestant Reformation in the Netherlands, contained management principles that could be applied to both the household of faith and the management of the public sector. The aim of this article is to identify those principles of the Reformation, as expressed in the Belgic Confession (an important document of Calvinism in the Netherlands), and those principles contained in other church documents, such as the Rule of St Benedict, that are relevant to 21st century public management in South Africa.
This article will show that there are similarities between the Netherlands of the 16th century and post-apartheid South Africa, and question whether the management principles contained in the Belgic Confession are also relevant to society today.