The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

by Michael Novak
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Any vision of capitalism's future prospects must take into account the powerful cultural influence Catholicism has exercised throughout the world. The Church had for generations been reluctant to come to terms with capitalism, but, as Michael Novak argues in this important book, a hundred-year-long debate within the Church has yielded a richer and more humane vision… See more details below

Overview

Any vision of capitalism's future prospects must take into account the powerful cultural influence Catholicism has exercised throughout the world. The Church had for generations been reluctant to come to terms with capitalism, but, as Michael Novak argues in this important book, a hundred-year-long debate within the Church has yielded a richer and more humane vision of capitalism than that described in Max Weber's classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Novak notes that the influential Catholic intellectuals who, early in this century saw through Weber's eyes an economic system marked by ruthless individualism and cold calculation had misread the reality. For, as history has shown, the lived experience of capitalism has depended to a far greater extent than they had realized on a culture characterized by opportunity, cooperative effort, social initiative, creativity, and invention. Drawing on the major works of modern Papal thought, Novak demonstrates how the Catholic tradition has come to reflect this richer interpretation of capitalist culture. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII condemned socialism as a futile system, but also severely criticized existing market systems. In 1991, John Paul II surprised many by conditionally proposing "a business economy, a market economy, or simply free economy" as a model for Eastern Europe and the Third World. Novak notes that as early as 1963, this future Pope had signaled his commitment to liberty. Later, as Archbishop of Krakow, he stressed the "creative subjectivity" of workers, made by God in His image as co-creators. Now, as Pope, he calls for economic institutions worthy of a creative people, and for political and cultural reforms attuned to a new "human ecology" of family and work. Novak offers an original and penetrating conception of social justice, rescuing it as a personal virtue necessary for social activism. Since Pius XI made this idea canonical in 1931, the term has been rejected by the Right as an ox

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Novak ( The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism ) declares that Max Weber's 1904 classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism missed the mark. In place of Weber's ethos of discipline, hard work and acquisition of wealth, the neoconservative thinker, himself a Roman Catholic, outlines ``a Catholic (and catholic) ethic'' that stresses the creativity, liberty and responsibility of the individual. Arguing that democratic, pluralistic, capitalist societies are the best hope for ending world poverty and ethnic violence, Novak draws on papal social thought from 1891 to the present in reinterpreting social justice as a personal virtue realized by citizens working cooperatively. He faults U.S. government programs for fostering welfare dependency among the poor urban blacks, and he sets forth an arsenal of reforms, from job training and self-governing public housing projects to measures designed to help the poor build assets. This challenging manifesto will stimulate thinkers at all points on the political spectrum. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Novak, who holds the Jewett Chair at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., has written a critical historical analysis of the Catholic critique of modern political and economic systems. He covers the gamut of papal social thought from Rerum Novarum to Centesimus Annus in a humorous, knowledgeable, and reasoned manner. What emerges is the foresight of a Catholic bureaucracy that adhered to principles of economic freedom and social justice by its then reviled but now vindicated practice of supporting democratic capitalism. The critique of democratic capitalism and its moral shortcomings is not as detailed as the critique applied to socialism. Even so, leftists and moderates both should enjoy this mix of new and synthesized right-wing apologies for the Catholic embrace of capitalism.-- Kenneth M. Locke, Radford, Va.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780029232354
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
02/10/1993
Pages:
334
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.16(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >