Shepheard-Walwyn £9.95 (0-85683-231-6); Church Times Bookshop £8.95
Global Civilisation: Challenges to society and Christianity
Equinox Publishing £45 (1-84553-004-7); £13.99 pbk (1-84553-005-5); Church
Times Bookshop £40.50 and £12.60 respectively
THESE two books both address themes of globalisation, economics, and
theology, but they differ in their approaches.
Promoting the Common Good is a personal dialogue, almost homely in
its style, as each author recounts his journey of faith in the arena of
globalisation and the common good. Its overriding message is that capitalist
economics does not enable true human freedom to flourish.
The authors call for an economics that "weds spirituality and morality".
Human beings need "sociability"; the formation of community, "where education
and virtue are elements of the common good"; and a healthy love for the common
good in the creation of a fully developed humanity.
Paradoxically, the authors see in John Maynard Keynes, the father of modern
economics, someone who believed that "the purpose of the economy is to control
the material basis of a civilised society, enabling its citizens to explore the
higher dimensions of human existence, to discover their own full potential."
Though acknowledging that modern economic theory has made such benefits
available only to the few, the authors argue that there is a need for an
economic theory based on an understanding of what a human being really is, and
what makes people happy.
The book strives to bring together economics and theology from an interfaith
perspective, and gives helpful insights into both Christian and Islamic
understandings of economics, of what it means to be human, and the need for
shared values and some over-arching concept of truth.
The chapter on putting ideals into practice may not be quite as practical as
many readers would like, but it nevertheless offers some grasp of economic
principles rooted in Jewish, Islamic, and Christian theology, and the search
for common ground.
Leonardo Boff, in Global Civilisation, brings his now familiar
perspective from the Global South. He observes that "globalisation is occurring
on three fronts: technological change, market forces, and the rise of a new
His work converges with that of Braybrooke and Mofid in his assessment of
what he perceives as the "perversity of the current capitalist model of
development". He argues that such a model supports a primacy of quantity over
quality; the privileged position of capital over the means of production; and
"a predominance of the material over the humanistic, the ethical, and the
Boff argues for economic activity that enables each individual to achieve
self-fulfilment; and sees the need to support productive forces and factors so
as to prevent poverty and famine. He calls for the fomenting of social cultural
values that will effect changes in the living conditions of all societies, for
the benefit of the poorest.
For him, the "eco factor" -looking after the environment with
nature-compliant technology that produces economic, moral, and spiritual
transformation "without destabilising the eco-system" - is essential.
Boldly reasserting the need for an "end to the political and spiritual
stagnation that came about with the breakdown in expectation and hope
associated with socialist ideals and with the culture of acceptance of the
status quo linked to global capitalism", Boff calls for the recreation of
"utopic horizon". This, for him, is choosing in favour of the poor in response
to the gospel, and recognising that this cause is right. "A weak man plus
another weak man do not add up to two weak men, but to a strong man, because
the union makes us strong," he meditates.
The book concludes with the offering of an "Earth Charter", based on respect
and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic
justice, democracy, non-violence, and peace.
Neither book is an easy read, but both are worth persevering with - though I
wish the typographical design of the Boff book had been more welcoming.
The Rt Revd Peter B. Price is Bishop of Bath & Wells.
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