Where do we go from here? I want to suggest that one answer may lie in a revival of mutual self-help groups, inspired by spiritual values, which we might call by their old medieval name of ‘guilds’. Of course I am not suggesting an exact return to the medieval guilds, any more than I am advocating that people should go around talking Chaucerian English. However, I do argue that the guilds provide a model answer to two major problems of modern economic and social life. The first of these is the rapid shift in the labour market from life-time employment for most people to a world of self-employment and temporary contracts. The second, partly as a consequence of the former, is the reduction in the safety net provided by the welfare state and corporate health and pension provision.
Friday, 30 December 2011
Russell Sparkes has written a new paper on the reinvention of the guilds, which is now posted on the Economy site. Here is an extract:
Saturday, 24 December 2011
A Theology of Gift" from the recent Blackfriars symposium to the Articles section of the Economy Project website. In section 34 of Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict writes: “Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift. Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension.” He goes on to argue that the “logic of gift” which is an expression of communion with others must be allowed a place even within economic systems and commercial enterprises, since no human activity exists in a sphere apart from God or separate from ethics. And in section 53 he adds: “Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man's transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.” The Blackfriars symposium was inspired by this challenge. Other papers are expected to be published in due course.
Posted by Stratford Caldecott at 09:20
Sunday, 18 December 2011
|Flag of the East India Company from 1801|
The entire series CRISIS OF THE CORPORATION is now available as a single PDF article on our Economy pages. What follows is the final part.
"Many companies extol the value of work-life balance for their employees, but the reality for senior executives? There isn't any. Frequently, stressed and harried managers look up the organization hierarchy and assume that they'll have greater control of their time when they advance to the C-suite. What they don't understand is that modern-day telecommunications, the hair-trigger requirements of financial markets, and the pace of global organizations create 24 x 7 work lives for most executives."This text is taken from that symbol of social radicalism called the Harvard Business Review in November 2011. It summarizes the existential issue of the corporation in terms that are direct and unequivocal. It also poses the fundamental ethical problem of modern life: corporate ambition.
Ambition in modern society, really the drive toward personal power, isn't fundamentally different from ambition in any other era. It involves persistence, single-mindedness, immense energy, and commitment. In a word: passion. The corporation has become an instrument of this passion. But it is an instrument which cannot be controlled. In theological terms it is a Power, a force beyond the control of human beings, a force, like the state, which we theorize is under our control but which in fact has a life of its own.
The legal recognition that the corporation is a “person” does not give it an inappropriate status. Rather it serves as a warning that the corporation is not a tool that can be
Posted by Stratford Caldecott at 10:40
Friday, 16 December 2011
The full text of the Chief Rabbi's landmark address at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on 12 December can be read online here. Meanwhile David Cameron's recent speech in Oxford defining Britain as a "Christian country" and calling on Christians to "stand up and defend" our values and beliefs is HERE. There is a discussion of these important speeches and an interesting post about "Blue Labour" starting over in the Social Teaching section of our online forum.
Posted by Stratford Caldecott at 14:22
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Earlier this year, a government commission chaired by Andrew Dilnot recommended reforms to the system – a new private insurance scheme would be expected to cover the first £35,000 of care, with the State covering the rest. But the Treasury is understandably reluctant to agree the £1.7 billion a year this would take, and 2025 is being talked about at the earliest start date for the reform. That's a long way off, and the crisis will be much worse by then.
Clearly more needs to be done urgently. But it is important to note that throwing money at the problem is not a complete solution, even if it were possible (say, by diverting bankers' bonuses into a national elderly care fund). In a way the more worrying aspect of the crisis is the inhumanity with which the elderly are being treated when care is available.
I have an old friend now in her 90s, now in a care home. She recently wrote to me: "in so many care homes I fear the treatment is all theory with very little true understanding or commonsense." She is in a new unit surrounded by dementia patients, and describes
Saturday, 10 December 2011
In capitalism the pursuit of self-interest is supposed to work for the greatest common good. It hasn't. Maybe it was always just too simplistic an idea. George Soros makes some sensible points about the fallibility of the economic system we have created. He argues that