Monday, February 29, 2016
College of Saint Benedict
In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis challenges us to both respect the environment and attend to the needs of the poor. On the standard economic view, the two goals are in tension. Economic growth is the best remedy for poverty, yet economic growth also puts pressure on the environment. That tension has led some to reject the pope's message as hopelessly naive. But in the key chapters of the encyclical, Francis challenges the dominant world view of our age, which he calls the 'technocratic paradigm', implicitly arguing that environmental degradation and economic injustice are rooted in its faulty understanding of creation. As long as we are mired in the technocratic paradigm, we will be unable to develop a genuinely just and sustainable economy. So what is the technocratic paradigm? And why is it so important that we rethink ourselves and the world around us in light of creation? In order to understand the real message of Laudato Si, these are the questions that we need to take up.
Mary Hirschfeld is assistant professor of economics and theology in the Humanities department of Villanova University. She earned her Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University in 1989 and her Ph.D. in theology at the University of Notre Dame in 2013. She is a fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and she serves on the Board for the Program of Catholic Social Thought at the Lumen Christi Institute. Her articles include publications in Review of Economics and Statistics, History of Political Economy, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Econ Journal Watch, Horizons, and Faith and Economics. She is currently working on her book, Toward a Humane Economy: Aquinas and the Modern Economy, which seeks to develop a theological framework for economics which respects the best insights of modern day economics.