The Substance of Things Hoped For: On the Faith and the Economy (Promoting what we Oppose, Part 2)

Solidarity: The Journal for Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics 4 (1):Article 6 (2014)
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Abstract

In the first part of this series it was argued that there is an inextricable bond between economic and cultural liberalism such that when Catholics identify the faith with the defence of neoliberal economics, even though they may oppose abortion, they end up promoting exactly that which they oppose. In this the second part this point is expanded upon and the argument made more explicit and that by reference to Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudium Evangelii. The Exhortation evidences a view of matters economic that sits ill with capitalism, a point understood by Catholic commentators who champion Neoliberalism. This essay argues that Francis’ comments are nothing new, especially when compared to what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have written on the subject; indeed, that Francis’ Exhortation can be seen as a tempering of their critique of economic liberalism. The essay attempts to tease out what it is that informs the critique of the popes and shows that it has to do with what flows out from the rejection of metaphysics proper, a rejection that defines Modernity, and which ends in the deracination of all things such that even the very concept of ‘substance’ is dissolved and, thereby, all is made plastic and malleable, including human life. The important point the essay wishes to make is this: the popes are quite clear that the form a culture’s economy takes can both ground and exacerbate this anti-essentialist logic, what’s more the economy above all others that does this is the one they identify with neoliberal capitalism. As a consequence, Catholics who champion this form of economic theory must think seriously as to whether or not they or the popes are wrong on this matter.

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