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Jessica Ludescher Imanaka, PhD

Civil Economy and the New Jesuit Paradigm

This paper shows how Bruni and Zamagni’s new theoretical paradigm of Civil Economy can be applied to Jesuit business education in support of the Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education. We first explicate the theoretical economic model developed by Bruni and Zamagni, and then focus on three applications of Civil Economy to business practice: fair trade, solidarity enterprises, and the economy of communion. We then show how Bruni and Zamagni’s framework could be integrated into the business and economics curriculums at Jesuit schools to meet the hungers for dignified work, moral compass, community, and adult spirituality in particular. We suggest that business ethics and economics classes serve as the subjects within the curriculum to articulate the civil economy framework, setting up a theoretical model, the specifics of which will be applied in particular business disciplines. The following paragraphs provide an overview of the Civil Economy paradigm. Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni have been developing a new paradigm called Civil Economy that resurrects prominent ideas from the Italian Enlightenment that had been neglected as the key figures of the Scottish and English schools of political economy came to define the prevailing understanding of what capitalism was and could become. In a piece on “cooperative entrepreneurship”, Zamagni draws a helpful distinction between markets and capitalism. He argues that “the market economy is the genus, capitalism is the species”, meaning that a liberal economy characterized by free enterprise need not be restricted to what he calls capitalist forms of enterprise. While many tend to assume that enterprise is synonymous with capitalist firms, Zamagni argues that “enterprise is the genus that includes a variety of species within itself: capitalistic, social, civil, cooperative, public”. Once we broaden our understanding of economics from capitalism to markets and from shareholder owned corporations to a plurality of forms of enterprise, we can find much more space for non-selfish, pro-social attitudes on the part of economic actors. In fact, a central aspect of the paradigm of civil economy is the notion that “the true entrepreneur is social” in the sense that profit is not his/her primary drive, but rather innovation regarding a good or service valuable to society. The notion that entrepreneurship is essentially social marks a turn toward a potential new economic paradigm. The Latin-Catholic tradition, as opposed to the prevailing Anglo-Protestant tradition of political economy, proceeds from different anthropological premises that ground human nature in our inherent sociality. The Latin-Catholic tradition presumes that humans already exist in social communities bound by ties of reciprocity, and this sociality manifests in our economic relationships. This anthropology entails certain values, grounded in fraternity, solidarity, and gift-giving. Bruni and Zamagni suggest that the notion of civil economy includes many open-ended possibilities for how such a positive anthropology characterized by fraternity and gift-giving can be realized. Examples of economic manifestations of the civil economy include: cooperative enterprise and entrepreneurship, Economy of Communion, fair trade, microfinance, mutualism, relational goods, social enterprise, and spiritual capital.