The Wound and the Blessing: Economics, Relationships, and Happiness

Overview

The crisis that market societies are undergoing is essentially a crisis of relationships. It originates in the illusion that the market, through the actions of an 'invisible hand' operating in impersonal market relationships, can present us a good common life that is exempt from the possibility of being wounded by the other.

Luigino Bruni offers an authoritative and innovative look at the cultural and anthropological premises underlying contemporary market economies and their ...

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The Wound and the Blessing: Economics, Relationships, and Happiness

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Overview

The crisis that market societies are undergoing is essentially a crisis of relationships. It originates in the illusion that the market, through the actions of an 'invisible hand' operating in impersonal market relationships, can present us a good common life that is exempt from the possibility of being wounded by the other.

Luigino Bruni offers an authoritative and innovative look at the cultural and anthropological premises underlying contemporary market economies and their promises. He suggests that the market has betrayed its promises, offering the prevalence of unhappiness in our cities as evidence, and points out the need for balancing the increasing tendency toward isolation with the human need for relationships.

Bruni proposes gratuitousness — free and open reciprocity, quite different from altruism — as a means of maximizing the benefits of the market (and the equality and freedom that market contracts propose) without losing the joy that comes from putting the relationship with the others in the market as the primary good.

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Editorial Reviews

Englewood Book Review - Joe Davis
[Bruni] sheds considerable light on how our “business relationships” became so separate, and less real, than our private relationships … he does not reject the notion of markets and contracts; what he rejects is the arbitrary extension of market relationships into all arenas of life, like healthcare and education. The market must make way for gratuitousness. Bruni calls for a return to the Italian tradition of “civil economy” (as opposed to the dominant tradition of “political economy”), in which he locates his own work, because it associates economics with happiness instead of wealth. Bruni proposes a theory of happiness based in relationship: “one cannot live a 'good life' unless with and thanks to others.” This theory points to what is known as the “paradox of happiness” emerging from recent economic research. The paradox of happiness asserts that happiness depends on genuine relationality, which makes reciprocity, and the potential for being wounded by others — gratuitousness — absolutely essential. Once people have enough income to live decently, their relational well-being becomes the primary source of their happiness.
Christian Theological Seminary, in Claritas: Journal of Dialogue & Culture - Carol Johnston
The Wound and the Blessing is the kind of work that is urgently needed ... Bruni wants to affirm relatively free markets, but do it by placing them in the larger context of, and operate them for the benefit of, the inherently relational character of human life, including acknowledging the risks - the "wounds" - that come with those relationships ... Bruni's argument ignores (and transcends) more American ways of framing these issues, and lays bare the "traps" in both free market (largely Republican) and social equity (largely Democratic) approaches ... because both have been trapped in the narrow box of Modern individualism. Bruni's work is a contribution to [the emerging asset-based community development] movement to re-think not only economics, but more deeply, how we understand human beings and our need for a common life with relational density in order to flourish.
Richard Easterlin
Luigino Bruni is one of the few scholars with both the knowledge and courage to seek to integrate the humanities and social sciences. He has written a stimulating and thought-provoking book that is well worth reading.
Andy Yuengert
What is most remarkable about Bruni’s book is its refusal to romanticize social relations – they are at once necessary to human happiness and a source of human sorrow and pain. One of the attractions of market exchange is its impersonal nature, but a market economy cannot by itself promote human happiness. Bruni proposes neither a utopian dream of universal brotherhood nor a libertarian values-free market. Instead, he sketches a framework within which we may more carefully identify
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565484283
  • Publisher: New City Press NY
  • Publication date: 3/25/2012
  • Pages: 148
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Luigino Bruni, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Economics, Università di Milano-Bicocca and Resident Faculty at Istituto Universitario Sophia in Loppiano, Italy. He is co-editor of the International Review of Economics (IREC, Springer) and has written numerous books and articles, including the award-winning Civil Happiness: Economics and Human Flourishing in Historical Perspective and The Economy of Communion (ed.).

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Translator's Introduction xiv

Introduction xx

1 The Angel and the Other 1

1 The Radical Ambivalence of Life in Community 1

2 The Tragic Community 5

3 The Mediation of the Absolute 7

4 The Discovery of "Thou": the Angel Becomes the Other 10

2 Modern Economic Science: a Science without Gratuitousness 14

1 Adam Smith's "Original Sin" 14

2 Economics without "Beneficence" 17

3 Reciprocity 19

3 Corporate Social and Civil Responsibility: Immunitas and Communitas Compared 25

1 Modern Economics, Markets and Corporations: A Single Immunizing Process 25

2 Market and Hierarchy 27

3 Coherence beyond the Contradiction 30

4 Another Idea about Community Responsibility 34

5 From the Market to the Company, from the Company to the Market 38

6 Conclusion 42

4 Eros, Philia, and Agape 45

1 Economics and Gratuitousness 45

2 Human Love, One and Many 46

3 Eros, Philia, and the Common Good 51

4 The Common Good as Self-Deception 54

5 Beyond an "Erotic" Economics 56

6 Conclusion 62

5 Joyless Economy 63

1 A Premise 63

2 "Public Happiness" and the Civil Economy of Antonio Genovesi 64

3 Relationships and Well-being 69

4 Why Are We Less Happy than We Could Be? 70

5 The Paradox of Opulent Unhappiness 75

6 A Critical Appraisal of the Debate on Economics and Happiness 78

6 Relationships as Goods 83

1 Relationships: the Goods that Traditional Economics Does Not See 83

2 Relational Goods 85

3 Primary and Secondary Relational Goods 90

4 "Hell is Other People" 93

The Economic and Civil Significance of Charisms 99

1 Different Eyes 99

2 Charisms and Innovation 104

3 Charis, or "That Which Gives Joy" 107

Conclusion: Embraced by the Other 109

Bibliography 115

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