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Catholic Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism Hardcover – February 10, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novak ( The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism ) declares that Max Weber's 1904 classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism missed the mark. In place of Weber's ethos of discipline, hard work and acquisition of wealth, the neoconservative thinker, himself a Roman Catholic, outlines "a Catholic (and catholic) ethic" that stresses the creativity, liberty and responsibility of the individual. Arguing that democratic, pluralistic, capitalist societies are the best hope for ending world poverty and ethnic violence, Novak draws on papal social thought from 1891 to the present in reinterpreting social justice as a personal virtue realized by citizens working cooperatively. He faults U.S. government programs for fostering welfare dependency among the poor urban blacks, and he sets forth an arsenal of reforms, from job training and self-governing public housing projects to measures designed to help the poor build assets. This challenging manifesto will stimulate thinkers at all points on the political spectrum.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Novak, who holds the Jewett Chair at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., has written a critical historical analysis of the Catholic critique of modern political and economic systems. He covers the gamut of papal social thought from Rerum Novarum to Centesimus Annus in a humorous, knowledgeable, and reasoned manner. What emerges is the foresight of a Catholic bureaucracy that adhered to principles of economic freedom and social justice by its then reviled but now vindicated practice of supporting democratic capitalism. The critique of democratic capitalism and its moral shortcomings is not as detailed as the critique applied to socialism. Even so, leftists and moderates both should enjoy this mix of new and synthesized right-wing apologies for the Catholic embrace of capitalism.
- Kenneth M. Locke, Radford, Va.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; No Edition Stated edition (February 10, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 002923235X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029232354
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Novak, retired George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy from the American Enterprise Institute, is an author, philosopher, and theologian. Michael Novak resides in Ave Maria, Florida as a trustee and visiting professor at Ave Maria University.

Ever since The Open Church hit shelves in 1964, Michael Novak has been a voice of insight on American and Catholic culture. Author of more than 45 books on culture, philosophy, and theology, Novak continues to influence and guide right thinking. Winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize, Novak's Westminster Abbey address remains as instructive it was two decades ago. As a founding director of First Things and writer for many publications, Novak has sought to build up our institutions.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've lived through the '50's red scares,communist world expansion, the '60's nihilism and militaristic support for capitalistic expansion. I've witnessed the polemics of the 80's and '90's, culminating in the demise of Communism and the emergence of a "Third way" synthesis. Capitalism always appealed to the intellect as logical but, knowing that not all humans are hard working and creative, capitalism in its pure state always seemed morally lacking. Mike Novak argues this is like blaming the car engine for and moral deficits of a drunk driver. While providing an interesting ride, this socio-economic -political rollercoaster has always lacked a tanscendent moral order. Along the way, pundits, social critics and propogandists produced a moral overview both fragmentary and conflicting. Mike Novak's book assigns some greater moral clarity to the choas of this historical tumult. He argues that one may be both a devout catholic and an enthusiastic capitalist, that indeed, being catholic may even oblige one to be a capitalist. He stenghens his views with the imprimatur of encyclicals, both eloquent and prescient, by Popes Leo XIII through John Paul II. Each humanistic and thoughtful citizen, whether a member of The American Republic or the world at large, must ask: Are private property and the pursuit of profit moral goods or evils? Are capitalism's excesses and shortcoming the faults of the economic order itself or the hosting culture? Is the pursuit of self interest a natural expression of god-given talent (hence a moral imperative to inspire, protect and empower others) or is it the selfish and exploitative. Is greed good? When does legitimate self interest become greed?Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. W. Thielman on June 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is determined by the majority, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism." Pope John Paul II, _Centesimus_Annus_-1991, #46
Michael Novak has written several books on the impact of capitalism on democratic society, including _The_Catholic_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism_. In essence, this volume contains a synopsis of papal thought on economics from Leo XIII in his encyclical _Rerum_Novarum_ (1891) to John Paul II in his centennial rejoinder _Centesimus_Annus_ (1991). This tumultuous period in between these two documents oversaw the rise of socialism and its final collapse. These events lead to the question, does capitalism engender a moral superiority as an economic system. The book leads the reader to the conclusion in the qualified affirmative.
Modern society maintains three dimensions involving public participation--political, economic and moral. Democracy (or probably more accurately, constitutional republican government) constitutes probably the best political form that flawed humans can achieve in this life. Capitalism has been demonstrated to be the most effective economic means to ensure maximum benefit (in productivity and material reward) for the greatest number of persons.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Karen A. Decoster on June 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Not only is capitalism moral, but Novak proves out how the Catholic church has a history of rejecting socialism and exalting the capitalist society. Contrary to Max Weber's work on the Protestant Ethic, all of Catholicism is not one big tome to social justice and human rights. From _Rerum Novarum_ to _Centesimus Annus_, Catholicism captures the spirit of entrepreneurial ingenuity and liberty.
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