Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 7: Catholic Social Thought
Albino Barrera Moral philosophy is a constitutive part of economics as a social science. The economy is, after all, a human institution whose primary end is the integral development of the person in body, mind and spirit. This interdisciplinary approach is a fundamental contribution of Catholic social thought to contemporary economic science. Its principal legacy is evident in the branch of social economics, which weaves together the study of economics, human dignity, ethics, theology and philosophy. The Review of Social Economy, especially in its first few decades when it was the academic journal of the Catholic Economic Association, illustrates such scholarship. Significantly, this association was founded in 1941, at a time when the discipline was increasingly subscribing to Lionel Robbins’s view of economics as a value-free science, as conveyed in his famous Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (1932). The association has since dropped its original name and greatly diversified its interests beyond Catholic social thought. Nevertheless, the Association for Social Economics, as it is now known, is still distinctive within heterodox economics for its commitment to addressing socio-economic questions that impinge on values and human flourishing. Msgr John A. Ryan of Roosevelt-era New Deal fame and Bernard Dempsey are two notable offshoots of this school of thought in the last century. Of late, this strand has given rise to economic personalism and the Journal of Markets and Morality. Economic personalism seeks to provide a better anthropology for economic analysis through interdisciplinary scholarship. Moving forward, ‘theological economics’...
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