Fall 2009

Introduction: Money

Wendell Berry, in “Inverting the Economic Order,” shows that “when everything has a price, and the price is made endlessly variable by an economy without a stable relation to necessity or to real goods, then everything is disconnected from history, knowledge, respect, and affection—from anything at all that might preserve it.” What is needed, Berry argues, is an economic order that puts nature first, the economies of land use second, the manufacturing economy third, and the consumer economy fourth.

Mark Shiffman, in “An Ethic of Attentiveness: The Rediscovery of Oikonomia,” suggests that Wendell Berry’s fiction represents a rediscovery of the wisdom of Aristotle, who understood the intrinsic relation between economics, ethics, and politics. Aristotelean “oikonomia recognizes limits to acquisition, since it takes its measure by the standard of self-sufficiency with a view to a good life, which means a life embodying virtue and friendship.” Shiffman complements Berry’s cultural analysis with an account of how the disintegration of economics from the norms of the healthy household and community stems from the nominalism and individualism of Hobbes’ political philosophy.

Nathan Schlueter, in “Healing the Hidden Wound: The Theology of the Body in Wendell Berry’s Remembering,” uncovers the parallels and hidden connections between John Paul II and Wendell Berry. Common to both authors is a vision of the goodness of creation and the vocation to love which is inscribed into the very language of the human body. For both authors marriage simultaneously embeds human love within a concrete community and opens human beings to the mystery of God and the hope for the redemption of all creation.

Retrieving the Tradition features a selection from Charles Péguy’s 1913 essay “On Money,” which contrasts the ancient and Christian understanding of the dignity of work with the bourgeois and post-Christian mind. Hans Urs von Balthasar sums up Péguy’s depiction of modernity: “Its characteristics are these: a view of man as a mere calculating intellect, Kantian formalism, Hegelian systematizing . . . psychology and sociology in place of philosophy, the loss of relationship with God, the loss of all real nourishing roots, the quantifying of all value, the triumph of mathematics and technology all along the line, the shallow optimistic ideology of progress, and money as the only real force in the world.”

Finally, Notes & Comments closes the issue with Michael Hanby’s “A New Reformation?” which reflects on the significance of the Vatican’s decision to create personal ordinariates to receive Anglicans en masse into the Catholic Church. For the first time since the Reformation there is “a concrete bridge whereby ‘separated brethren’ in the Western Church can return to full communion without simply renouncing the last five hundred years . . . without feeling as if assent to the fullness of the faith means denying that their traditions and the people who nurtured them in those traditions have been real vehicles of grace.”