Blessing the Beast?

God’s Economy
Faith-based Initiatives and the Caring State
Lew Daly
University of Chicago Press, $37.50, 318 pp.

The scholar-journalist Lew Daly seems genuinely concerned about the poor, and about middle-class families and communities as well. The increasing precariousness of their positions in American society forms the backstory of his challenging new book. God’s Economy shows how powerful corporations and their wanton abuses have not only devastated families and communities financially over the past three decades, but also reshaped them for the worse, both socially and culturally. Government programs, meanwhile, offer inadequate levels of support—and do so in ways that interfere with authentic human development.

Daly sees a common thread running through these trends. In his view, the United States lacks sufficient “social pluralism.” Our legal, political, and economic systems have evolved to concentrate power among relatively few institutions, and in the process, social groups have been denied both their moral claim to the world’s abundance and their natural rights—including the right to have their lives and activities informed by religious belief and practice. In Daly’s words, families, churches, and communities have been “caught in the vise grips of market liberalism and liberal statism.” Only by reconstituting our laws and policies to validate the claims of families and community can we truly foster the common good, promote authentic development, and effectively meet social needs.

God’s Economy begins with an enthusiastic assessment of “...

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About the Author

Robert DeFina is a professor in the Sociology Department at Villanova University. His teaching and research interests include labor markets, poverty, and social inequality. He is co-editor of the Journal of Catholic Social Thought.