Goals, ways and the roots of our economic crisis

Abstract

This article deals with the question if and how far religious points of view and messages of churches involved matter in the analysis of the roots of the present global economic crisis, and even more in the discussion about how to overcome the crisis itself. Economic experts such as Stiglitz point to the presence of factors such as greed, fear and utmost selfish behaviour. It inevitably leads to the ethical, but in fact also the religious question of how far people, especially economic agents, can go in the pursuit of their own economic interests without doing harm to others. Jesus asked his disciples to follow him: with Bonhoeffer, we could call that a Way-orientation. Where and how far can a conflict therefore arise between human goal-orientations, on the one hand, and a biblical Way-orientation, on the other hand? And is it indeed relevant when considering our present economic crisis? This article defends the last position, describing some categories (such as the choice of ultimate meaning, the sacro-sanctity of chosen instruments, and the demonisation of opponents) which indicate that the borderline has been passed between responsible and irresponsible goal-orientations. The glorification of greed and the delegation of ultimate power to financial markets indicate that at this moment elements of idolatry (or the obedience to Mammon) are at hand. They are also aggravating the present economic crisis. This implies that returning to the choice for decisive normative Way-orientations in economic life is possibly the only true way out of the present economic crisis.
https://doi.org/10.4102/koers.v79i1.2158
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