“In a Space of Questions”: A Reflection on Religion and Economics at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century
Efforts to consider economic life from a religious perspective almost always run headlong into the conflict between utilitarian values, which are the cornerstone of modern economic analysis, and religious values, which are almost uniformly nonutilitarian. This essay looks at this conflict of values through the work of the moral philosopher Charles Taylor. While acknowledging the power of utilitarian analysis, Taylor shows that it treats only a subset of what is central to our ethical concerns. The essay looks back to the relationship between Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill and their views of the nature of economic analysis to try to see some of the power of Taylor's distinction. The essay concludes by looking at recent work in behavioral economics as evidence that economists can consider broader criteria than utility maximization in examining economic behavior. Only if economics can move beyond strict utilitarian analysis can it fully engage with the broad range of ethical concerns that underpin religious belief.
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Volume (Year): 43 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (Summer)
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