Competing Visions of the Corporation in Catholic Social Thought
Catholic Social Thought (CST) is coherent body of principles concerning the organization of social and economic life drawing on the inspiration of natural law, Thomism, the Gospel and the tradition of Christian personalism. While valuing the creative energy of capitalism and its contributions to the production of wealth, it is often highly critical of the inequalities generated by capitalism, its tendency to promote materialistic consumerism and capital's devaluation of the dignity of work. While not easily characterizable as "right" or "left", CST thinking about corporate social responsibility and corporate governance has become split between interpretations emphasizing the importance of economic liberty to human dignity (a central CST value) and those deriving from a much more communitarian conception of that dignity. This paper contests the neoconsevative positions articulated principally by Michael Novak, and identifies the core CST premises that lead to a much more communitarian vision of the corporation. In so doing, it emphasizes affinities between that vision and secular views of the corporation derived from the critical and legal progressive traditions.
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