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Increasingly, the religious leaders of the world are addressing problems of political economy, expressing concern about the poor. But will their efforts actually help the poor? Or harm them? Much depends, Michael Novak asserts, upon what kind of institutions are constructed, that is, upon realism and practicality.
His thesis may be simply stated: Although the Catholic Church during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries set itself against liberalism as an ideology, it has slowly come to admire liberal institutions such as democracy and free markets. Between the Catholic vision of social justice and liberal institutions, Novak argues, there is a profound consonance (but not identity). Both celebrate realism, respect for institutions, and prudence or practical wisdom. The Catholic tradition adds to liberal individualism a strong communitarian sense.
This book was first published in 1984 as Freedom with Justice. This new edition adds both a lengthy introduction carrying forward the original argument and a long concluding chapter on Pope John Paul IPs controversial new encyclical of early 1988, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.