Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America: A Critical Analysis

Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America: A Critical Analysis

Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America: A Critical Analysis

Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America: A Critical Analysis

Synopsis

Kroeker argues that in trying to make their theological ethics relevant to economic policy Christian social ethicists have accepted assumptions that are incompatible with theological beliefs. Starting with the Social Gospel movement, he discusses the positions of theologian Walter Rauschenbusch and Canadian politician James Shaver Woodsworth. He then turns to Christian Realism and compares the views of Reinhold Niebuhr with those of Gregory Vlastos, the central figure in the Canadian Fellowship for a Christian Social Order. He also examines recent pastoral letters on the economy by the Canadian and US conferences of Roman Catholic bishops. In conclusion, Kroeker suggests an alternative theological approach based on the classical Christian realism of Augustine that might better address the moral malaise of liberal political economy.

Excerpt

This study has grown out of a moral and religious concern about the centrality of the "paradigm of productivity" — the rationality, practices, institutions, and consequences of liberal capitalism — in modern North American public life.It is a public life oriented toward the voracious consumption of material goods, dedicated to the seemingly endless expansion of commodified needs. the efficient management of this process has come to define the very meaning of politics; hence the centrality of "political economy" in our public culture.The problem, as I understand it, is not only or even primarily one of "social justice," understood as a matter of distributional fairness or equal access to goods or democratic participation in economic institutions and processes.Conceptions of justice are closely bound up with visions of reality — of human and non-human nature, society, politics, and so on. This is an especially important consideration for any attempt to relate religious ethics to questions of economic justice, since many modern persons would argue or simply assume that justice is a matter of social contract and formal legal procedures that best maximize individual and group interests and best protect individual and group freedoms. and many people would further argue or assume that justice is therefore primarily a matter of effective social and economic organization and problem-solving based on the most efficient calculation of consequences. in a liberal, pluralistic society, justice must be autonomous from moral and religious values, which remain a matter of individual preference and choice. This is problematic, given the biblical and classical religious understanding of justice as rooted in the goodness of a divinely created order of reality, where . . .

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