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The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism Paperback – December 29, 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Madison Books; Revised edition (December 29, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819178233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819178237
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,605 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.

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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Rafe Champion on August 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
The American theologian Michael Novak converted from socialism to capitalism in the 1970s, somewhat against the trend of the times. It might be said that he got in early to beat the rush to the neoconservative right. He has written that his liberal humanist education, mostly in philosophy and theology, was anti-capitalist 'as was common'. At the age of 40 he recognized a need to question his presuppositions about political economy and especially economics. This led him to discover and eventually to celebrate democratic capitalist traditions and institutions, especially in their North American form. He is especially proud of the achievements of the founding fathers of the Constitution with their appreciation of the need to separate the powers of church and state, and to take precautions against the predatory activities of political factions.
In his capacity as a Catholic theologian he has been especially concerned to reply to the moral critics of capitalism who typically argue that the system abandons the public interest and the welfare of the community to self-interest and the pursuit of individual gain. In one of his other books, Free Persons and the Common Good, he attempted to retrieve from the Catholic literature a conception of the common good that is consistent with capitalism and the market order. Novak taook up this challenge with a tortuous excursion into the works of Catholic thinkers, among them Aquinas who Lord Acton described as 'the first Whig'.
His account of the American experience as an adventure of classical (non socialist) liberalism is more convincing. He identifies several valuable moral traditions which were called forth by democratic capitalist institutions in the early American colonies.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Bainbridge on February 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Michael Novak is probably the foremost Christian thinker on the economy. Any of his books reward study, but "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism" is undoubtedly his magnum opus. In this classic text, which has now been updated and revised, Novak joins issue with theologians like Paul Tillich who contend that "any serious Christian must be a socialist." It appeared in a samizdat (underground) edition in Poland during the 1980s and had an obvious impact on the Solidarity movement. Its reasoned defense of democratic capitalism as being grounded in the humane values of the Judeo-Christian tradition also helped give a moral center to the neo-conservative movement.
In "Democratic Capitalism," Novak addresses the consistency of capitalism with church teachings on wealth. Novak recognizes that church teaching has been hostile to capitalism, as with much else of modernity. Yet, Novak contends that arguments against capitalism serve mainly to give aid and comfort to the Leviathan state. Indeed, Novak persuasively (if controversially) attributes Christian opposition to capitalism to two main sources: ignorance and antique world views. Church leaders and theologians tend to have either a pre-capitalist or a frankly socialist set of ideals about political economy.
To be clear, Novak does not believe that faith should be subordinated to capitalism. To the contrary, he recognizes that the divine plan was that we should enjoy the fruits of the earth and of our own industry. He simply contends that capitalism is the best way Fallen humans have yet devised to obey the Biblical command that we are to be stewards of God's world. Novak never loses sight of the basic proposition that it was equally the divine plan that God should be worshiped, obeyed, and feared.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tim Rovenstine on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
A nut's and bolts book about how and why systems that allow "free choice" produce better goods and services. A MUST book for people in Latin Countries where "poverty" was a virtue and production was conceived as evil. Novak pulls the shades off of the "socialist" concept that only Capitalists are greedy. Marx indeed never took into consideration a human spirit that could be "inspired" to do things for the Glory of the Creator. I don't leave "home" without my copy. I read and then re-read.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Junglies VINE VOICE on March 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an important book. It links the liberal democratic order of capitalism with the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and thus at once removes capitalism from being a secular, non-discriminatory form of free market exchange to a human set of relationships between individuals based on a moral code.
Whether or not all philosophers would agree with that thesis is another issue. Since the enlightenment when religious authority was usurped and the secular society emerged, religion has been under attack in developed societies and today many in organized religions decry the relatavistic nature of our behaviour.
That said this is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the concept of the ethical corporate governance. It is a difficult book to read due to the densely written arguemnts which require close reading. It is a challenging book in many ways, especially to those who have strong personal belief systems. Nevertheless, Novak makes a strong case and his exposition deserves to be taken to a wider audience
My thoughts upon rereading this book again recently were that there is a need for a similar book to relate Capatilism to other major religions in a way which transcends any one religion in particular. In the light of recent events too there is a case for a treatise which relates Capitalism to the Moslem world to show that it is an inclusive rather than an exclusive social system.
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