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Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire Paperback – March 17, 2008
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— Wycliffe College, Toronto
"Many Christians vaguely sense that all is not well with their relation to consumer society, but find it difficult to name just what ails them. In Being Consumed William Cavanaugh offers the clearest, most helpful diagnosis I have ever seen. No liberal guilt-tripping here, just some serious theological reflection on matters like God, desire, justice, pluralism, and the nature of human freedom. I especially like Cavanaugh's concrete examples of economic practices consistent with life in the body of Christ. This book will be required reading in my introductory theology course."
— University of Bristol
"Rampaging retail therapy in our Western economics requires a radical analyst. We have an Augustinian prophetic voice in William Cavanaugh, who subjects the free market, consumer culture, globalization, and scarcity to Catholic interrogation. He employs the traditions of Augustine, Aquinas, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and John Paul II, proposing an alternative desire that transforms the church and our practices. Envisioning a eucharistic justice that leaves us rich in community-caring and prosperous in our constant sharing, Cavanaugh is lucid, personal, practical, and theologically wise."
— Marquette University
"Can a book free Christians from the ‘invisible hand' that seems more and more to dominate every aspect of our lives? William Cavanaugh provides a much-needed how-to manual for just such a liberation. Clearly written and even entertaining, Being Consumed frees us from the ironic position of ‘having no choice' but to live by the rules of free-market consumerism in a globalized world of scarce resources. . . Cavanaugh makes clear that the everyday economic life of Christians can be different and can make a difference. And he sows seeds that could, if taken seriously by Christians and churches, produce well over a hundredfold — produce, that is, a revolution."
"Being Consumed is a thoughtful look at a difficult set of issues. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand better how we might apply Christian teaching within our modern economic framework"
“Cavanaugh provides a nuanced, yet accessible theological analysis of consumer culture.”
Religious Studies Review
“An ecclesiologically informed economics whose capacity to transform our lives, if we would heed its various concrete suggestions, should not be underestimated.”
“This is a highly readable and incisive book. Cavanaugh boldly engages contemporary economic assumptions — and some of their theological shortcomings — with wit and vigor, and he proves to be a knowledgeable and thoughtful guide.”
New Theology Review
“In four accessible chapters Cavanaugh deals with issues that constituted this decade’s social, economic, political, environmental, and human rights crises. . . . [The book’s] brevity is attractive, but that in no way dilutes its compelling depth.”
"Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire is a deceptively short yet theologically deep book. . . .Thoughtful and well-timed.”
Catholic Books Review
“Cavanaugh’s treatment of a complex subject is filled with insights, careful analysis, and helpful suggestions. . . . This book is a must for Catholic and Christian college libraries.”
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Top customer reviews
In a four chapters, Cavanaugh addresses a host of concepts and ideas pertaining to the market and what defines human flourishing. In the opening pages of the introduction he places the most basic question for every transaction. He writes "The key question in every transaction is whether or not the transaction contributes to the flourishing of each person involved, and this question can only be judged, from a theological point of view, according to the end of human life, which is participation in the life of God."(Page viii)
This begs the question of how we can participate in the life of God through our spending/investing/lending. As I said before this is not a how to manual but it does give some ideas to think about. Researching companies that have sound practices to care for their employees like the ones he mentions in the book as examples. Think about need verse want as a matter of why am I dissatisfied with what I have over what is being marketed to me (do I really need the iPhone 5 when the iPhone 4S still works well?). Ultimately, why am I dissatisfied when my basic needs are provided for? I highly recommend this book for people to read. It has more of a high theological terminology but well worth the investment.
This is a great, small book. It's 100 plus pages are meaty - much to chew over. And much to challenge us. Cavanaugh's call is clear and simple, "From a Christian point of view, the churches should take an active role in fostering economic practices that are consonant with the true ends of creation. This requires promoting economic practices that maintain close connections among capital, labor and communities so that real communal discernment of the good can take place".
Of course most Christians are aware of the plight of factory worker around the world making designer clothing (Liz Claiborne jackets) which while retailing at $178, cost only 77 cents per jacket (56 cents an hour). And of course most Christians are concerned. It is just that most Christians are too lazy (yes, fingers pointed at me too!!) to change our shopping habits. But is it possible to be a business and give to the community? Cavanaugh details the pain-based Mondragon Co-operative which was founded by a priest in 1956. The company employs 60,000 people and has annual sales of $3 billion. But it's philosophy is based on the principles of distributism: this idea is that a just social order can only be achieved through the distribution of property and a recognition of the dignity of labor. Mondragon is entirely worker owned and worker governed. It is based on a system of one vote per worker. Their philosophy is that labor hires capital, instead of capital hiring labor. The highest paid worker can make no more than six times the lowest paid. 10% of surpluses are given directly to community development projects.
Not only is the company successful and laborers highly satisfied with their work, but the communities in which Mondragon plays a significant part enjoy lower crime rates, lower rates of domestic violence, higher rates of education, and better physical and emotional health than neighboring communities.
There is much more to this book - but I'll leave you to find out for yourself.