Great Transformation, 2.0?

We are in the middle of a second “great transformation,” suggests Zygmunt Bauman in Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (46-7). Industrialization has given way to an “experience economy.” Bauman points to a shift in the metaphors and vocabulary of . . . . Continue Reading »

Marketization of politics

William Cavanaugh’s presentation at the Wheaton Theology Conference was, as one would expect, challenging and provocative. He asked questions about corporate persons in contemporary law, tracing the background of the idea in the Bible and in medieval thought, but focusing attention on the . . . . Continue Reading »

Adolescent business

Keeping people wandering in extended adolescence is good for business, says Thomas Bergler in The Juvenilization of American Christianity (6-7): “People who know who they are, who think carefully about purchases, and who exercise self-control are harder to persuade to buy products they . . . . Continue Reading »

Finance and the Soul

“The Federal Reserve is not your friend,” writes Judy Shelton in The Weekly Standard . Its policies encourage “unjustified risks in pursuit of monetary gain,” give incentives for “speculative conniving instead of virtuous endeavor,” offers reasons to borrow . . . . Continue Reading »

Before Economics

“None of our Western [economic] distinctions was completely absent in antiquity,” writes Sitta van Reden near the end of her Exchange in Ancient Greece (218). Yet, because of a different configuration of society the distinctions we take for granted were not so ingrained: “Rigid . . . . Continue Reading »

Obligation to receive?

Marcel Mauss famously argued that in archaic societies, giving was guided by three imperatives - the obligation to give, to receive, to repay. Except for the exceptions. Like Jacob and Esau: On his return from Haran, Jacob sends gifts ahead to pacify Esau’s wrath and Esau receives. When Esau . . . . Continue Reading »

State-free economy?

I argued earlier this week that, as a matter of historical fact, Western economies have not been state-free zones. My question here is more theoretical and general: Is it even possible to have a state-free economy? Yes, at a small scale, in, say, a tribal economy. But then in a tribal economy, . . . . Continue Reading »

Inalienable gifts?

David Cheal ( The Gift Economy ) offers a deft critique of Mauss’s and C.A. Gregory’s theories of gift. The central rebuttal is to point to the fairly obvious fact that giving continues to occupy a large place in modern societies. Gift-giving is big business, as that pile of Christmas . . . . Continue Reading »