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Author’s Name, “Title of Essay,” Business, Faith, and the Economy of Communion, Edited by Andrew Gustafson and Celeste Harvey, Journal of Religion & Society Supplement 22 (2020), Pages of the essay [URL of this page].
Here Chiara Lubich, founder of the EoC movement, provides a brief explanation of the origins and key characteristics of the Economy of Communion. Among those characteristics are 1. That we should practice business with the same personal values that animate the rest of our life, and that the economy can be a place for human and spiritual growth; 2. the EoC proposes that we practice business inspired by gratuitousness, solidarity and care for the poor; 3. the poor have a “gift of need” which can be given to others – they are essential members of the EoC project; and 4. every EoC enterprise is part of a greater reality – the worldwide movement.
This contribution makes more explicit the link existing between the Economy of Communion and the objectives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, in particular with regard to the human rights approach to poverty reduction.
As leader of the global Catholic Church, Pope Francis, like his predecessors, has offered critical reflection on what it might take to help move the world toward greater attentiveness to economic justice and sustainable development. One of the obstacles that stands in the way of broader reception of this message is the tendency to interpret his proposals through a divisive ideological lens. This essay considers how Pope Francis’s proposals might best be understood through the lens of reconciliation, and most specifically, of the paradigm of the unity of opposites. It then explores how the Economy of Communion project exemplifies promising dimensions of the unity of opposites in action.
This paper seeks to consider the purpose and meaning of the Economy of Communion (EoC) movement in the context of totalism. It makes the claim that the EoC is an exercise of prophetic imagination as that idea has been articulated by Walter Brueggemann. The paper proceeds by first explicating the significant dimensions of prophetic imagination at work, then assesses the EoC in light of that explication. We then consider the engagement of EoC entrepreneurs in prophetic ministry and conclude by returning to the question of the EoC as an alternative proposal for economic life and culture.
This article discusses the meaning and significance of subsidiarity and its companion principles, solidarity and participation, as both principles of Catholic social thought (CST) and as management principles. The author provides a brief overview of the development of CST, particularly with regard to subsidiarity and principles related to contemporary management. The discussion of subsidiarity and its companion principles posits a culture of subsidiarity that indicates the presence of the principle and that is necessary to sustain it in practice. A short introduction and history of the Economy of Communion (EoC) and its parent, Focolare, form the basis for an examination of how subsidiarity works in practice. The specific example used is the startup of the EoC, featuring particular actions pointing to the presence of a spirit of subsidiarity.
My first task in the paper will be to illuminate why following genuine principles of one’s Christianity is so challenging in the contemporary economy, and then I will turn to a specific aspect of the challenge: the importance of simplicity of lifestyle and the rejection of luxury and consumerism in all spheres of our lives, including our business practices, an idea often overlooked in thinking about the consistency of lifestyle. Finally, I will suggest two, somewhat daring, ways in which that simplicity might be manifest by EoC businesses. These suggestions are meant to be challenging, but I will close by noting that both actually address really important problems in our current economic situation. Therefore, they are potentially effective business strategies, and not only utopian moral imperatives.
Conventional economic theory and practice sees work as a disutility: something that we dislike and prefer to avoid. So we eliminate work wherever possible, replacing human workers by machinery or electronics, thus enabling us to produce and consume more, with less input of work. But we in the richer countries are now producing and consuming too much, overstraining the earth’s resources. The theory of disutility is radically wrong, because we need, and God intends us, to work; “where there is no work there is no dignity!” (Francis). Elimination of human work also reflects the belief that the primary duty of a business is to maximize profits; this is a basic error, implying that owners of a business are entitled to manage it solely for their own benefit, without regard for the common good. Economy of Communion firms endeavor to put into practice a more humane and civilized conception of work.
The business of business properly understood is necessarily personalistic. The human person acting as an entrepreneur or working in business is not merely froth and bubble in the stream of history but is a freely acting person motivated toward specific ends. The business person can be seen as an exemplar of what it means to be a human being. The Economy of Communion project is an attempt to regain and promote the personalist nature of business. In this perspective commercial life is not seen an end in itself since it creates a space in which we can realize our personal dignity in creative action. As human persons we live in an existential tension searching to become who we are. The drama of business life is a part of a greater whole; of a reality that unfolds who we are as human beings.
In this essay the Economy of Communion model of business practice is explained by situating it in context with other traditional theories of the firm, the purpose of business, and other socially-concerned entrepreneurship models. Harvey argues that the Economy of Communion model of doing business represents a “Person-Centered Theory of the Firm” drawing on 2 empirical studies of EoC enterprises. She explains the unique features of the EoC model of doing business by first, comparing it to the stakeholder and stockholder approaches, and then by comparing and contrasting it with forms of social entrepreneurship and other models such as B Corps.
Small to medium-sized businesses are a significant part of the economy, and play a very significant role strengthening local communities. However, few have a clear plan for succession. Business succession is important for owners committed to goods beyond mere profits, and such succession is difficult to manage. The article considers fundamental issues about ownership and owning a business, and draws from Catholic social doctrine to consider ownership as stewardship to promote communion. In response to practical questions about business succession, a series of options are considered with an eye to considering how to sustain community goods beyond profit maximization.
This more biographical essay will attempt to bring together theory about Economy of Communion (EoC) practices with the real life experiences the author has had as an EoC entrepreneur. While Gustafson rehabs and then rents out properties in midtown Omaha, he is motivated by the vision of EoC in his business practices. Here he explains how the EoC vision impacts who he employs, how he treats them, who he rents to, his typical rental practices, and finally how he himself has been impacted spiritually through his business activities, trying (imperfectly) to live out gratuity and reciprocity in his day to day practices. Ultimately, he has come to see his work as lived-out theology – practicing redemption by rehabilitating run down properties, and providing grace and mercy and living out his faith through his business activities.