Catholic Theological Anthropology, Capital, and Secularization: Reassessing the Patterns in Light of 21st-Century Conditions

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Authors
Rober, Daniel A.
Issue Date
2018
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Abstract
This essay examines secularization in the twenty-first-century U.S. and its relationship to Catholic theological anthropology, through the lens of capital as well as the related issues of growth and consumption. It proceeds from the assumption that there are evident tensions between Catholic conceptions of the common good and contemporary capitalist economics, as articulated by Pope Francis and others. By analyzing macro-economic theories of growth as articulated by Thomas Piketty and Robert Gordon, it becomes clear that the high levels of growth in twentieth-century Western economies were anomalous both with respect to previous history and to recent realities. The second section examines time in dialogue with social theorist Douglas Rushkoff as well as Robert Putnman’s work on social capital, examining how this dynamic relates to the aforementioned issue of growth as well as trends of secularization. The third section deals with Frank Trentmann’s work on consumption, tying it into the previous section as well as Pope Francis’s critique of consumerism. The essay concludes that the circumstances it explores ought to force a reconsideration of classical secularization theories that have assumed secularization as an effect of prosperity; today’s secularization ought to be read against the backdrops of economic desperation and lowered social capital. Theological anthropology, as a result, needs to shift its attention away from homo economicus toward the lives of contemporary people who still must view capital and its implications as central to their lives but with much less hope that economic desires and accomplishments might fulfill them.|Keywords: secularization, theological anthropology, growth, time, consumption
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Rober, D. A. (2018). Catholic Theological Anthropology, Capital, and Secularization: Reassessing the Patterns in Light of 21st-Century Conditions. Supplement Series for the Journal of Religion & Society Supplement Series, 17, 133-148.
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Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center, Creighton University
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1941-8450
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