Call for papers: Economic Theology, Theological Economics

Interdisciplinary Conference

Logo Economic TheologyMay 20-21, 2014
Lumsa University

In  writers and philosophers  like Shakespeare, Marx, Weber, Benjamin, Bataille, Girard, and more recently Taylor, Pasolini, Dumont, Agamben, the link between economy and religion, or more to the point, Christianity and Capitalism, has occupied a central theoretical place.

In late XX century, in particular after the fall of communism, the religious nature of capitalism has been disregarded.

Recently, however, new interest in the so-called  “economic theology” is growing, an expression used analogously with Carl Schmitt Political Theology: “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts” (1922). Doubtlessly that Political Economy too, in its foundation phases, has been deeply influenced by both theological categories and languages, as Giacomo Todeschini has showed for the pre-modern era, and economists such as Jacob Viner or Deirdre Mccloskey, and Giorgio Agamben for the modern Political Economy. We call this influence of theology over economics “Theological Economics”. At the same time, theology, in particular in the first centuries of the Christian era, has borrowed from the Greek oikonomia fundamental tools for expressing key elements and novelties of Christianity (i.e. God as Trinity) with respect to Judaism and Polytheism. We call “Economic Theology” this other side of the nexus theology-economy – then the analogy with Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology is only partial. Something similar to the first centuries, however, is happening again today where some currencies of theology (i.e. Piero Coda’s Trinitarian ontology) is in dialogue with new tenets of economics and social sciences (i.e. the theories of reciprocity and relational goods), with reciprocal influences.

The Rome international conference intends to convene scholars from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds, to reflect on this hot and relevant topic.

The issue

Philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote in 1921 that “one can behold in capitalism a religion, that is to say, capitalism essentially serves to satisfy the same worries, anguish, and disquiet formerly answered by so-called religion. (…) Capitalism itself developed parasitically on Christianity in the West” (Capitalism as Religion, 1921). And prophetically he added: “A commanding view will, however, later become possible”.

Indeed, the religious nature of capitalism is much more evident today than it was in the 1920s, especially when one considers how increasingly rare it is to find areas of our lives that are not for sale. It is a pagan religion that calls for an exclusive form of worship and aims to replace Christianity (not any other religion), because it stems from Jewish-Christian humanism. Modernity is not characterized by a deserialization or disenchantment of the world, but instead by the affirmation of a new religion, i.e., by the transformation of the Christian spirit into the “spirit” of capitalism.

The argument is strong and inevitably controversial, but it undoubtedly captures a fundamental dimension of our time, one that was perceived at the dawn of capitalism by the philosophical genius of Antonio Rosmini by mid-19th century. The intertwined relations between Christianity and Capitalism run deep since their very origins. Capitalism borrows from the vocabulary of the Bible (fides-faith-trust, credit-credere…), and even the Evangelists use the economic language of their time to make comparisons and compose parables. And we cannot understand the Middle Ages, the Reformation or Modernity unless we take the numerous intersections between grace and market, blood and money into due account. Nevertheless, only in recent times has Capitalism fully revealed its true nature as a new (pagan) religion. This new religion promises and offers a pseudo-eternity, a surrogate for eternal life, where commodities take the place – in Lacan’s terms – of the traditional religion and God.

The topics

Relevant topics for submitting papers are the following:

  • Theology and economics in historical perspective, with a special focus on the Protestant Reform/Catholic Reform period, when the “spirit” of capitalism began.
  • Market and grace, economy and gift:  are there influences of theological debates?
  • The theological influences in the formation of the Italian/Latin XVII century Civil Economy, in relation to Smith’s Political Economy?
  • Economic theory as a new form of religion.
  • The different visions of capitalism (US, European, Latin, Chinese, Japanese): it is possible, not only historically, to think of  a non-capitalist market economy?
  • The charismatic principle in the economic and civil life.
  • Is it possible a capitalism without a spirit? And which spirit is, today, replacing the old spirit of capitalism?
  • What are the implications of ‘economic theology’ in organization and business life?
  • Papers on specific “classic” figures of economic theology (Augustin, Luther, Calvin, Marx, Weber, Agamben…)
  • Are there nowadays new seasons of both “theological economics” and “economic theology”?

Invited speakers include: Giorgio Agamben * (European Graduate School – Switzerland), John Milbank  (U. Nottingham), Paul Oslington (Australian Catholic University), Adrian Pabst (U. Kent), Tomáš Sedláček (Charles University -Prague), Giacomo Todeschini (U. Trieste)

Proposals from 100 to 300 words, have to be sent to the following email address:  Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!
Deadline for proposals: March 31, 2014
Acceptance: April 21, 2014
Final paper and registration: May 7, 2014

Registration fee (food and beverage included):
Seniors: 200 euro
Juniors: 100 euro

Scientific Committee

Luigino Bruni (Economics, Lumsa & Sophia UI)
Piero Coda (Theology, Sophia UI)
Benedetto Gui (Economics, U. Padua & Sophia UI)
Mauro Magatti (Sociology, U. Cattolica-Milan)
Adrian Pabst (Political philosophy, U. Kent)
Vittorio Pelligra (Economics, U. Cagliari & Sophia UI)
Pier Luigi Porta (Economics, U. Milan-Bicocca & Irec)
Andrea Simoncini (Law, U. Florence)
Alessandra Smerilli (Economics, Auxilium-Rome)
Stefano Zamagni (Economics, U. Bologna & SEC)

The Conference is organized by:

• LUMSA University, Rome
• Sophia University Institute (Loppiano – Florence)

Organizing committee:

Luigino Bruni (Lumsa, & Sophia UI)
Antonella Ferrucci (Economy of Communion)
Tommaso Reggiani (U. Cologne & Heirs)
Matteo Rizzolli (U. Bozen & Heirs)

Conference website:

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