chapter  1
19 Pages

Economy of life: charismatic dynamics and the spirit of gift


The dominant mode of globalization has mostly reinforced the disembedding of states and markets from the social practices and civic virtues of civil society writ large. In this process, abstract economic values linked to instrumental reason and procedural fairness have supplanted civic virtues of courage, reasonableness and substantive justice. As such, the global “market-state” reflects the centralization of power and the concentration of wealth that is undermining democratic politics and genuinely competitive economies. However, the growing economic interdependence around the world also offers new opportunities for reciprocity, mutuality and fraternity among communities and nations. To promote an ethos of responsible and virtuous action, requires the full breadth of political and economic reason. Christian social teaching offers conceptual and practical resources that are indispensable to the search for broader notions of rationality. Among these resources are non-instrumental conceptions of justice and the common good in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and cognate traditions in Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Closely connected to this is the idea of “civil economy” (Bruni and Zamagni, 2007). As Pope Benedict XVI has suggested in his encyclical Caritas in veritate, “civil economy” embeds state-guaranteed rights and market contracts in the social bonds and civic virtues that bind together the intermediary institutions of civil society (Benedict XVI, 2009). In this manner, it links the “logic of contract” to the “logic of gratuitous gift exchange”. The spirit of gift exchange translates into concrete practices of reciprocal trust and mutual assistance that underpin

virtues such as reciprocal fraternity and the pursuit of the universal common good in which all can share. As such, “civil economy” reconnects activities that are primarily for state-administrative or economic-commercial purposes to practices that pursue social purposes.