“Interest, Disinterestedness, and Pragmatic Interestedness: Jewish Contributions to the Search for a Moral Economic Vision”

In The Spirit of Conscious Capitalism: Contributions of World Religions and Spiritualities. Switzerland: pp. 85-108 (2022)
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This chapter does not presume to outline a new economic theory, nor a novel perspective on Jewish approaches to economy. Rather, it suggests the concept of pragmatic interestedness (PI) as means for thinking on the search for conscious or moral forms of capitalism. In short, pragmatic interestedness means that having interests is basic to human nature, and that interestedness is or can be non-egoistic and pro-social. This chapter proposes that PI, which has a significant role in normative Jewish tradition, can contribute to the articulation of conscious capitalism. The chapter first defines what pragmatic interestedness is, and its opposite, namely disinterestedness (DI), which demands total impartiality. The second section considers the influential Christian concept of Agape or universal and egalitarian love, which is arguably at tension with eros and particular commitments (and with PI in this regard). It is argued that prominent modern philosophies secularize the Agape, especially Karl Marx’s Communism and Peter Singer’s Sentientism, in a way that marginalizes PI. The third section explores the appearance of pragmatic interestedness within rabbinic Jewish tradition, by (i) presenting the complicated duality of the concept of interest, (ii) emphasizing the recognition of human needs and interests in Judaism and (iii) highlighting Jewish sensitivity to the differences between various spheres of human commitment, and (iv) the role of market and economic considerations in Jewish tradition. The fourth section reflects more broadly on how PI may contribute to the conception of conscious or humane capitalism.

Author's Profile

Nadav S. Berman
University of Haifa


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