IAJBS 23rd Annual World Forum University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

Experience level: 
Dr. Tina M. Facca-Miess, Dr. Nicholas J.C. Santos, S.J.

The economic thought of Bernard Lonergan S.J. and Heinrich Pesch S.J.: An exploratory essay in search of new foundations for Jesuit business education

The call to action of the 2016 Jesuit Task Force report “Justice in the Global Economy” is framed in the context of a central question that was raised by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, namely, whether the economic advancements we can make benefit all people or whether they would be reserved for a privileged few. The sizable number of people who live in abject poverty indicate that our economic advancements are not benefitting all people. This reality also somehow implicates current models of economics as not being able to adequately address the deep inequalities and injustices that exist in our traditional economic system. There is therefore a need to explore other models of economics. It is in the light of this need that we explore the economic thought of the Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian, Bernard Lonergan as well as that of the German Jesuit economist, Heinrich Pesch. Lonergan was known to have remarked that “if you want to help the poor, study economics”. His writings on economics were in two waves, the first being during the Great Depression of the 30s and then again during the recession in the 70s. Lonergan was interested in understanding the dynamics of circulation in the economy and realized that there were two economies in operation simultaneously, what he called the “basic circuit” and the “surplus circuit”. Of deeper interest was the movement within and between these circuits and an understanding of the forces of acceleration within the macroeconomic system. The starting point of Pesch’s solidaristic economics is the understanding that man is an individual person as well as a member of the community. There is a dynamic relationship that man has with the world around him, a reciprocal dependence on family, society, and property. Pesch’s writings are credited with influencing the social encyclicals of Popes Pius XI and John Paul II. Pesch rejects free-market capitalism that argues for the self-interest of individualistic actors creating a market equilibrium and instead advocates the idea of mutual interdependence of all members of society. In this paper, we explore Lonergan’s and Pesch’s economic thinking to unravel if there are dimensions that would help us develop a macroeconomic model that is better suited to the common good than contemporary models. Such a model will be better suited as a foundation for our Jesuit business schools in contrast to the existing paradigm which promotes individualistic thinking and in fact contributes to the many inequalities and injustices that the 2016 Task Force Report mentions.