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.)
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.