Distributism: Adherence to the Social Teaching of the Church and Man’s Social Recourse to Leisure

2 01 2009

Distributism-Church Teaching and Leisure THUMB

Although it wasn’t my original “intention” to pick up the topic of leisure again, when I began digging into the encyclicals, the writings of Belloc and Chesterton, and others, the theme continued to present itself to me. So, after making the connections a bit more solid through my research, this is the paper that I came up with.

Distributism is a social/economic theory put forth by the Chesterbelloc & Co., which is based on the social teachings of the Church (especially Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno) and the practice of parts of medieval Europe (such as England and France). In short, the distributist theory grew out of the social and political turmoil brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the response to it by communism (in particular, Marxism). These two are often seen to be the only two “ways” of social and economic governance. What distributism provides is another “third way,” which Belloc holds to be “the only way,” as capitalism and communism are both based on faulty principles and don’t take into account a full understanding of man. My hunch is that neither allow for man to truly be free; capitalism in that it doesn’t give enough weight to the reality that man is fallen (and, consequently, provides a framework which disposes him to become enslaved by himself), and communism (as a response to capitalism) doesn’t trust man enough to exercise his genuine freedom.

The main argument of this paper is that neither (communist) socialism nor capitalism provide a social setting in which man is truly able to flourish as man. In different manifestations, man is enslaved by the oppression caused by these two systems and, consequently, is unable to be disposed to leisure, which is a necessity that should be provided for by a social/economic structure (which should respect the nature of man who it serves). As Belloc said, distributism is “the only way;” a way which disposes man to a proper understanding and living of leisure, in which he is able to flourish as a true human being, made in the image and likeness of God.

This may have, in some way, surpassed my paper on leisure as my favorite. But the two are very closely related, and this one could not exist without the former…so let’s just say I love this topic.

Written in my third semester of theology at Notre Dame Seminary for History of the Medieval Period with Fr. Mark Raphael (who left some hilarious comments on my paper and is probably one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had the privilege of having).

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