The Common Good and Christian Ethics

The Common Good and Christian Ethics

The Common Good and Christian Ethics

The Common Good and Christian Ethics

Synopsis

This study rethinks the ancient tradition of the common good to addressing contemporary urban and global social divisions. David Hollenbach draws on social analysis, moral philosophy, and theological ethics to chart new directions in urban life and global society. He argues that the division between the middle class and the poor in major cities and the challenges of globalization require a new commitment to the common good. Accordingly, believers and non-believers must move towards new forms of solidarity.

Excerpt

The initial stimulus for this book came in the mid-1980s while I was working with the Catholic Bishops of the United States on the drafting of their pastoral letter on justice in the American economy. Both during the drafting of this document and after it had been published in its final form, I had the opportunity to speak often about the issues it discussed. These talks and papers were presented to church audiences, in secular academic settings, and in circles concerned with public policy. The experience of interaction with the audiences in all these settings led me to the conclusion that a central concept being advanced by the bishops' letter – the common good – was nearly incomprehensible to most of the people the bishops sought to address. This experience launched me into an extended period of reflection on what could be done to revitalize the notion of the common good in a way that could speak to both Christian believers and to citizens at large. Thus most of the ideas in this book arose from a cultural lack I experienced first-hand in trying to analyze and advocate an understanding of economic justice in pluralistic American society. Many of my preliminary efforts to clarify the issues were presented in writings listed in the Bibliography.

A second stimulus came from two academic terms spent teaching at Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1996 and again in 2000. My students at Hekima College came from all over subSaharan Africa, east, west, and south. Some of them were from peoples who were at war with each other as we tried to work together in the same classroom. Some of them had themselves been refugees. Dialogue with them further deepened my conviction that developing an understanding of the common good that is plausible . . .

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