Donald J. Devine’sThe Enduring Tension energetically defends liberal capitalism, less from critics hailing from the secular left than from religious and traditionalist commentators ranging from Rod Dreher and Patrick Deneen to Pope Francis. Devine makes challenging arguments concerning the innovative potential of market reforms and the routine incompetence of centralized institutions, though he perhaps tries to cover too much economic and sociocultural ground, leading to rather limp conclusions like “issues surrounding marriage and gender will certainly continue to divide people into opposing political factions.”
From a fusionist perspective, Devine agrees on the importance of faith as the spiritual foundation of a humane capitalism—“a tradition, a mythos that limits demand, or its logos will be overwhelmed.” This is doubtlessly true, although an emphasis on functionality will undercut the unifying and motivational value of such narratives, which depend on their acceptance as icons and not tools. To be sure, Devine echoes Professor J. Budziszewski in saying that “we must actually know that our moral sense has a real truth” and argues that “humans have a sense of a moral law written in their conscience,” but to the extent that this is true, it has been malleable enough to inspire vastly divergent and conflicting religious and secular ideologies. Devine’s argument for the enduring popularity of religious belief also places more emphasis on self-definition than on revealed preference.