The Evolution of Social Ethics: Using Economic History to Understand Economic Ethics
Article first published online: 17 DEC 2002
1999 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.
Journal of Religious Ethics
Volume 27, Issue 2, pages 285–304, Summer 1999
How to Cite
Barrera, A. (1999), The Evolution of Social Ethics: Using Economic History to Understand Economic Ethics. Journal of Religious Ethics, 27: 285–304. doi: 10.1111/0384-9694.00018
- Issue published online: 17 DEC 2002
- Article first published online: 17 DEC 2002
- Catholic social thought;
- economic ethics;
- economic history;
- just price;
- scholastic economics
In the development of Roman Catholic social thought from the teachings of the scholastics to the modern social encyclicals, changes in normative economics reflect the transformation of an economic terrain from its feudal roots to the modern industrial economy. The preeminence accorded by the modern market to the allocative over the distributive function of price broke the convenient convergence of commutative and distributive justice in scholastic just price theory. Furthermore, the loss of custom, law, and usage in defining the boundaries of economic behavior led to a depersonalization of economic relationships that had previously provided effective informal means of protecting individual well-being. Hence, recent economic ethics has had to look for nonprice, nonmarket mechanisms for distributive justice. This is reflected, for example, in the shift in attitude from the medieval antipathy toward unions to the contemporary defense of organized labor on moral grounds.