Social Inclusion Beyond Exchanges and Distributions

F. Russell Hittinger | PASS Academician

Social Inclusion Beyond Exchanges and Distributions


Social capital theorists suggest that resources of social participation should be evaluated in three dimensions: the type of society (sports club vs. a political party), the scope of memberships (few vs. many affiliations), and the intensity of participation (very active vs. compliant). By design, the social capital methodology is committed to a very weak typology regarding the kinds of social life, their respective ends, and internal modes of union intended by common action. For this method of analysis, social capital (trust and cooperation) is a surplus created by individual actions that are in a general way social as measured by trust and cooperation. What matters is not a ranking of social orders in an order of ontological or anthropological importance, but rather the individual’s skills and morale built up through diverse social engagements.[1]

Whatever the benefits of “social capital” analysis, it will usually prove to be rather disappointing on the question of social inclusion and exclusion. The social and moral consequences of inclusion or exclusion from a transgenerational society, for example, will be quite different than inclusion or exclusion from a society that requires weak collaboration for transient ends. To be excluded from a social form that is non-substitutional, such as a family, is in the ordinary course of things more serious than exclusion from a voluntary club for which there is a suitable alternative of the same type. By the same token, access is not necessarily the same thing as inclusion, for one can enjoy access to airline clubs, data networks, financial markets without supposing inclusion in a society.

A non-substitutional society has the following properties: 1) There is no social equivalent; 2) Inclusion means full inclusion or no inclusion at all; 3) Membership is irreducibly social, which means that the social relation(s) do not come into existence simply by virtue of exchanges and distributions; rather, exchanges and distributions presuppose the social union; 4) Members intend for the society to be transgenerational. In the case of societies having these properties, trust and cooperation do not adequately capture the social virtues needed to sustain a common life.

I am referring to the domestic, political, and ecclesial societies. In Catholic social doctrine these societies have morally normative features with regard to their respective mode of union and the ends that their members ought to pursue. They are deemed societies “necessary” for human flourishing. We can also say that they are exemplary, insofar as these societies are primary analogates of social inclusion. Thus, the domestic, political, and ecclesial societies have traditionally conjured the metaphor of living bodies, which is probably drawn from the fact, or at least the aspiration, that these societies have not only common action and cooperation but a common life. Their members live together. Since living together is usually regarded as something so concretely and irreducibly “social”, it is not surprising that we take note of the health or decadence of social life in general by focusing and refocusing on domestic, political, and ecclesial orders.[2]


In view of the Holy Father’s address to this Plenary Session, I will begin by outlining various meanings of the term solidarity and then distinguish some of these meanings from fraternity. I take fraternity to be a social bond loved for its own sake.[3]

Societies formed in the tradition of Roman law once had a clear social, moral, and juridical meaning for solidarity. One had an obligatio in solidum insofar he was responsible – which is to say, liable – for the debts or actions of another. A legal and moral “presumption of solidarity” depended upon one’s membership in a society (nation, family, religion, guild) that persists over time, allowing everyone else to deem them members of a corporate whole. The uncle, for example, could be responsible for the actions and debts of his niece, and Jews could have obligations in solidum by virtue of being Jews. Liberation from presumptions of solidarity – especially the odious one pertaining to Jews – was one of the works of the democratic revolutions that spread from France to the rest of Europe and her former colonies. Indeed, the Napoleonic Code forbade the presumption of solidarities because it threatened to dilute the solidarity of citizens based upon the new creed of liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be sure, citizens engage in exchanges and in relations of credits and debts, and so the Code permitted liabilities freely contracted by private parties for limited purposes and times.

It was presumed, however, that civil fraternity cannot be assembled nor disassembled by commercial exchange.[4] To be sure, some features of a political common good are amenable to negotiation, provided that the negotiation satisfies the principle of political reciprocities proper to its constitution. A regime that buys and sells, or otherwise privatizes the res publica would be regarded as a deviant regime.[5]

By so strongly asserting that civil fraternity is an indivisible fraternity, the Revolution unintentionally emancipated the word solidarity for purposes other than citizenship. It swiftly acquired a plethora of moral and ideological meanings in the 19th century: class and occupational solidarity, solidarity of political parties or movements, sex and gender solidarity, the solidarity of humanity itself. Indeed, it often marks modes of association underneath, above, or across state sovereignties – perhaps a “human-rights patriotism”.[6]

Catholic Social Doctrine appropriated word “solidarity” long after it had mutated into these diverse moral and social desiderata. To my knowledge, John XXIII was the first to use “solidarity” in a magisterial document. Both “workers and employers”, he said, should regulate their mutual relations in accordance with the principle of human solidarity and Christian brotherhood. Unrestricted competition in the liberal sense, and the Marxist creed of class warfare are clearly contrary to Christian teaching and the nature of man.[7] Pope John was chiefly interested in having solidarity signify benevolent inclusion rather than partisan loyalty. For his part, John Paul II put solidarity under the category of a moral and supernatural “virtue”.[8]

In this way what we nowadays call the principle of solidarity … is clearly seen to be one of the fundamental principles of the Christian view of social and political organization. This principle is frequently stated by Pope Leo XIII, who uses the term “friendship”, a concept already found in Greek philosophy. Pope Pius XI refers to it with the equally meaningful term “social charity”. Pope Paul VI, expanding the concept to cover the many modern aspects of the social question, speaks of a “civilization of love”.[9]

Denuded of its 19th century partisan colorings, solidarity amounts to a rather traditional understanding of social virtues and friendship. To put it more exactly, it is a friendship that enjoys a common good. There is no other way to have it, so to speak, except by participating in it.

I find at least four distinct, yet interrelated, meanings of solidarity in magisterial documents since the early 1960s. The following enumeration is my own construction. My intention is not to belabor the details and nuances, but rather to highlight what I earlier called the “focal” case of social inclusion in a common life.

·      The first meaning of solidarity is anthropological: Our common ontological perfections as human. These perfections – notably rational, free, and communicative animals – are the wellspring for philanthropic recognitions. Perhaps we can say that love of beings of one’s “own kind” marks an important threshold, allowing us to love other persons we scarcely know, and with whom we live in no specific or familiar social order. Hence, the beginning of duties of beneficence and benevolence even from afar.

·      The second is called “interdependence”, consisting of common goods that need to be exchanged and distributed. In the words of Gaudium et spes §5, to recognize “needful solidarity” is to understand that we are in the same boat together, even if we do not engage in common action much less live in the same intimate domestic, political, or religious community.

·      The third is communicative and irreducibly social. We might call it solidarity of common action, which can encompass quite diverse modes of cooperation and team work for common ends. In Centesimus, John Paul speaks of the “an expanding chain of solidarity” among workers, by which he means that habits of solidarity in one social sphere tend to diffuse themselves in others.[10]

The fourth marks another threshold. What the magisterial tradition calls communio or koinonia denotes a society whose common good includes not only common action of its members but also three other notes that constitute a unique matrix of social inclusion: (a) perpetuity, which is to say that the members intend a transgenerational society; unlike a military unit or a team that needs a very high level of cohesion for a special purpose, the members of a society having koinonia intend to realize goods beyond those of mutual and transient needs;[11] (b) and most importantly, they share a common life in the concrete sense of living together.

In his Message to this Academy, for example, Pope Francis emphasizes the difference between “bonds” and “links” – the latter could amount to only the “social” instrumentalities of individual liberty rather than a specifically fraternal bond.[12] In a similar vein, Stefano Zamagni writes: “[It] is proper to distinguish between social interaction and interpersonal relations. Whereas in the case of the latter the personal identities of the persons involved are a constituent of the relation itself, social interactions – as they are studied in the literature on social capital – can perfectly well be anonymous, impersonal”.[13] Indeed, the term “common good” is often used equivocally, to stand for divisible goods that are distributed or for the indivisible good of a social bond or friendship. As Zamagni notes, when “common good” is identified with “democratic freedoms or rights or with the generic object of redistributive policies”, the concept is readily affirmed. However, when it is “presented as a good that not only is shared by citizens but also exists in its own right”, common good is not so easily accepted. In the latter case, common good indicates a “bond” that transcends social instrumentalities pooled ultimately for private purposes, such as a municipal water system.

Equivocation might belong to the art of rhetoric, but without serious analytical precision the discourses of “solidarity” and “common good” are apt to become lazy gestures of little use to either the philosopher or the social scientist.[14]

Our “Housed Existence”

In an earlier era, societies of common life were called “necessary” societies – that is, societies necessary for human flourishing. Pius XI stated: “Now there are three necessary societies, distinct from one another and yet harmoniously combined by God, into which man is born: two, namely the family and civil society, belong to the natural order; the third, the Church, to the supernatural order”.[15] To paraphrase and revise the Aristotelian dictum, the human person is a matrimonial-familial (a domestic) animal, a political animal, and an ecclesial animal.

There are other associations than these three that enjoy a truly social principle as well. But they are more transient, revisable, and subject to the free designs of human ingenuity. Should these societies wither, we would have social problems. A demise of the necessary societies would mark a social calamity. We are to dwell-in (inhabitere) societies taken in this focal sense of the term.[16]

The theme of social inclusion by way of common dwelling is perhaps the most ancient of all social tropes.[17] It has reappeared in interesting and useful ways in recent Catholic theology, especially in the teachings of Pope Francis, who tends to look more carefully at concrete social life than institutions denominated by legal generalities.

I take the expression “our housed existence” from the International Theological Commission’s work in “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God”.[18] The Commission set out to study the “relational being” of imago Dei, which, according to Genesis is visibly manifest in personal communion and stewardship.

Indeed, we could say that a properly Christian theology of ecology is an application of the theology of creation. Noting that the term “ecology” combines the two Greek words oikos (house) and logos (word), the physical environment of human existence can be conceived us a kind of “house” for human life. Given that the inner life of the Blessed Trinity is one of communion, the divine act of creation is the gratuitous production of partners to share in this communion. In this sense, one can say that the divine communion now finds itself “housed” in the created cosmos. For this reason, we can speak of the cosmos as a place of personal communion.[19]

These two senses of the dwelling or economy – personal communion and stewardship – are developed at greater length by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ in terms of “integral ecology” that is both social and environmental.[20] The focal meaning of “social”, he insists, is “the capacity for living together and communion”.[21] While he has said many things about more extended and complex social institutions, Francis is remarkably insistent about the primacy of “common life”. (think for example, “shepherds living with ‘the smell of the sheep'”).[22]

In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others. We break out of our fatal self-absorption and come to realize that we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection. There is no social bond without this primary, everyday, almost microscopic aspect of living side by side, crossing paths at different times of the day, being concerned about everything that affects us, helping one another with ordinary little things. Every day the family has to come up with new ways of appreciating and acknowledging its members.[23]

The family is to Pope Francis “the principal agent of an integral ecology”,[24] because it is a nursery of learning-by-practice social inclusion that transcends mere social instrumentalities, or what he calls “links”.

We might add that domestic society exhibits and anticipates the nuclei of solidarity shared by any society that has a “common life”. In the first place, membership cannot be bought or sold. Indeed, any notion of buying, selling or exchanging membership for an equivalent value is – for common moral sense – a corruption of marriage/family, polity, and ecclesial community. Furthermore, their unity is not merely aggregative. When a new member is added he or she is “included” by default as a participant in an indivisible social unity.

Societies enjoying communion always have a root in gratuitous beneficence because the principle of inclusion does not originate in satisfying debts by exchange or distribution.[25] Traditionally, distributive justice presupposed what “we” owe to “our” members on the basis of merit or need. Distribution operates within an already given social inclusion. One does not become a member by the fact of being given something. Hence, from a truly social point of view that we are elaborating, the term “redistribution” is misleading. The weak meaning of redistribution amounts to a redundancy. Within a social order, distribution is dynamical and proportional, so it must be done over and over again with due adjustment. But within modern societies that begin by default with goods exchanged in market relations, redistribution carries not a weak but a very strong meaning. Namely, that of methodological individualism. At any given, and rather abstract, slice of time, distribution is nothing other than the net aggregate of goods (real or imagined) held by virtue of innumerable exchanges. Thereupon, the social principle emerges ex post facto. The original “distribution” (sum of exchanges) is deemed politically or morally insufficient. Some power, most likely government, must re-distribute what was already neutrally accomplished by choices within the market. On this scenario, social membership would seem to be created by redistribution. My point is that it is the social bond that makes the distribution something other than a payout or a benefit yielded by exchange.

Finally, societies enjoying communion are orderable, one to the other, without prejudice to their own specific common life. Every temporal society is orderable beyond itself because human flourishing requires more than being a good spouse, child, citizen, or churchman. As Francis points out, it is not only the church, but also the family, that is “on mission”,[26] at least in the sense that it “sends” its members into other societies. The historical record shows that this ordering of one society to another is easier said than done.

At stake here is the principle of subsidiarity viewed somewhat differently than the way it is usually presented. Ordinarily we understand subsidiarity in terms of authorities or powers “from above” and “from below”. While this picture is not necessarily wrong, it can prove misleading because the obligation to give subsidium (aid, assistance, etc.) is assigned exclusively to a relatively higher power. But it cannot be true that domestic and ecclesial societies are merely recipients rather than givers of assistance to the political community. Unless that implication is foreclosed, the regulative principle that protects societies other than the state would also deny the agency and efficacy of those very societies with regard to the social whole. Pius XII insisted that “every social activity is for its nature subsidiary; it must serve as a support to members of the social body and never destroy or absorb them. These are surely enlightened words, valid for social life in all its grades and also for the life of the Church without prejudice to its hierarchical structure”.[27]

On the supposition that we are dealing with a relatively complex social whole in which two or more societies are nested, we can affirm two things. First, that every social agent (high or low) provides assistance to the others, albeit in ways proper to their own union. Second, that the giving of assistance has a limit, namely it must not destroy or undermine the social unity belonging to the other. This cybernetic (for Zamagni “circular”) model is especially apt for describing how domestic, political, and ecclesial societies are subsidiary to one another without existing in an assembly-line type of hierarchy. In fact, a multi-lateral and communicative hierarchy would seem to follow from the very idea that domestic, political, and ecclesial communities are “necessary” for human eudaimonia. Members who dwell in one society dwell also (and not in a strictly serial order) in others: those living in the domestic society are also members of a polity and members of a church. This principle has been called “hierarchical complementarity”.[28] We might call it the principle of inclusion pertaining to the social order of plural societies. Society is made up of different social orders, having relations that are “truly mutual”. They need each other, but one cannot replace the others. Francis, for example, refers to the family as a primary communion, but also as a “setting” and a “hub” for further solidarities.[29] The family, polity, and church exist for themselves (the perfection of their members) and for the others (whose members overlap with the family). Such mutuality of social life, sustained over time (and not just in emergencies) is what the ancient tradition meant by tranquility of order – plural societies living with one another for their mutual benefit.[30]

The Field Hospital

Pope Francis famously said: “Sometimes, I speak of the Church as if it were a field hospital”.[31] He did not mean that ecclesial communion is something merely instrumental – an association without a common life. It is an especially apt metaphor for thinking about what a demographer has recently termed “our miserable 21st century”, in which miseries arise not so much from plagues and natural disasters as from exclusions from the basic and necessary social forms of living-together.[32] A great deal of suffering belongs in the category of brutal exclusion. On this score, we can think immediately of the United Nations (UNHCR) report that tallies some 65.3 million displaced people, comprising refugees, asylum seekers, and people displaced within their own countries.[33] Wars, civil wars, and religious persecution (among many other causes) deprive a staggering number of people of their “homes” in a specifically social sense of the term: spouses, families, religious communities, national life, and even the most minimum political participation. As the U.N. report emphasizes, these homeless come from regions in which there is a strong correlation between political failure and economic underdevelopment.

Social misery is on full display in the affluent nations as well. Here, the patterns of exclusion from common life are not immediately brutal so much as slowly inflicted from within; even so, the effects are appalling. In conclusion, I want to make a few observations about social exclusion in our “gilded age”.

Let us first consider two revolutions: neither was instigated by higher ruling powers, though political and social authorities surely accommodated them. The revolutions probably had no single cause, but they are interrelated in origin and cumulative in impact. Each is utopic. I do not need to describe them in detail, because even if we do not comprehend all of the causes or the future course they might take, we know quite well what the revolutions are.

First, the cultural revolution of 1960s – not the one in China, but in the spirit of new things that sprang from the West and manifested itself internationally. It had a generational focus but by no means a generational limit. To put it bluntly by way of generalization, the three necessary societies were deemed to be unendurable by the better part of two generations. In a paradoxical acknowledgment of the complementarity of the three societies, domestic, ecclesial, and political society were perceived as a single repressive hierarchy – an Establishment, so to speak. Perhaps the social and institutional authorities had the same thought because they soon reconfigured themselves as permissive hierarchies. Institutional authorities faced a generation that really could imagine polity, marriage, and church as merely optional. Domestic, political, and ecclesial were not to be abolished so much as deflated. By deflation, I mean that the life-in-common societies were seen as potentially useful social utilities for one’s own life plan rather than normative and formative institutions in which we live a life and achieve perfections over generations. Deflation also required both the law and moral authorities to mitigate the obligations of membership, to make them easily revisable in order to promote more fluid social relationships in culture.

Eventually, a newer generation had second thoughts, aspiring to a deeper immersion in family, polity, and church. As it turned out, success in connecting with these social institutions is strongly correlated with high levels of education and affluence. Social scientists have carefully (even if incompletely) tracked the steep decline in matrimony and church attendance – not to mention mistrust of political institutions – among the remnants of the middle class in the United States.[34] After the upheavals of the 1960s, virtually no one would have surmised that a few decades later white, middle-American males would “trend” to being unpatriotic, drug addicted, divorced or not even married, not merely unemployed but uninterested in working, bankrupted, and with ever-falling participation in churches or in benevolent voluntary associations.

Case and Deaton propose a “preliminary but plausible story in which cumulative disadvantage over life” began prior to the impact of the globalized labor market”. Changes in the 1960s allowed people much more freedom to structure their careers, intimate relationships, religious life – in all domains, seeking identity more than membership. “When such choices succeed”, they point out, “they are liberating; when the fail, the individual can only hold him or herself responsible”.[35] Social isolation of the losers was already at work when the full effects of the new economy were manifest in job losses and decline of real wages. The larger and most relevant point is that when the focal societies of common life are deemed life style options, the deepest patterns of social inclusion and exclusion fall, by default, to the logic of exchange.

The second revolution, to use Pope Francis’s terms, is techno-economic. In late spring 1992, Justice Kennedy delivered from the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court his famous summary of civil liberty: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”. Three months later, Deng Xiaoping proposed an answer to the “meaning of life”. “To get rich is glorious”. He explained that there is only “one thought”, “one firm rule [hard truth]”, which is economic development, just as it is understood in the West. Some get rich more quickly, others lose. But in view of aggregate sums, the people will be happier.[36]

Counting the social costs of a highly financialized global market is no easy task. Deflation of polity would seem to be the most important. After three generations of constant public mobilization in response to wars and economic depression, it was at least plausible that private social life should be less burdened by duties to the state. But the post-1989 deregulation, polity by polity, of political and legal limits on the financial and labor markets rather swiftly introduced a principle that could have catastrophic consequences for what I’ve called the ordinary life-in-common societies: profits will be privatized and losses socialized. Since such measures are taken by the laws and policies of the political society itself, only the most authoritarian regimes could hope to survive the social costs of privatizing profits and socializing losses. The first casualty of post-1989 neo-liberalism is polity itself.

States are the target of blame. Pope Francis does not hesitate in this regard: “the economic and financial sectors, being transnational, tends to prevail over the political”.[37] Indeed, “global system” leaves in suspense the agency and efficacy of the nation state because it has been compromised, suborned. Claiming to enrich rather than protect its citizens, states joined the global casino; like any casino, most of the players will lose. It is a world system that renders familiar institutions empty shells of technocracy in the service of the “empire of money”.[38]

What is to be done? If polities are suborned, having become clients of the rich, it does not make very much sense to accelerate demands for international “governance”. Why should we think that international order emerging under our present condition of deflated polities will have a moral character different than its principal players? It makes more sense to reform polities according to the founding principles of full participation of citizens as members rather than customers. The first task of a polity is to be a real political society. Admittedly, will be difficult to do while at the same time taming the forces of nationalism, nativism and xenophobia.

Moreover, restoration of polity has to avoid the simplistic policy of what Donati called “compensations” or redistributions. This is not to say that there isn’t much work that needs to be done by way of distribution. But caution is in order. For one thing, it would be impossibly complicated to compensate citizens for the damages wreaked by three decades of the global casino. More importantly, periodic redistributions will not solve the sorest problem of “inclusion” if the system is rigged. The first thing must be the restoration of real, participatory citizenship. Alleviating widespread distemper about government by “pay offs” only reinforces suspicion that we are dealing with a deviant regime that allows the common good to be an instrument of private enrichment … the winners get most of the spoils, but some of it might trickle down to the losers.[39]

End notes

[1] Dag Wollebæk and Per Selle, “Participation and Social Capital Formation: Norway in a Comparative Perspective”. Scandinavian Political Studies, Vol. 26 – No. 1, 2003, 67-91. The authors conclude that “the most productive form of participation with regard to the formation of social capital seems to be not only participation in several associations, but multiple affiliations in associations with different purposes”.
[2] For example, the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton suggest that recent patterns of mortality and morbidity “move in tandem” with withdrawal (exclusion) from marriage, children, religious congregations, and political society. Case and Deaton, “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century”, conference version prepared for the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, March 24, 2017.
[3] “Again there is a union, which is the effect of love. This is real union, which the lover seeks with the object of his love. Moreover this union is in keeping with the demands of love: for as the Philosopher relates (Polit. ii, 1), ‘Aristophanes stated that lovers would wish to be united both into one’, but since ‘this would result in either one or both being destroyed’, they seek a suitable and becoming union – to live together, speak together, and be united together in other like things”. I-II 28.1 ad 2.
[4] And thus, to preserve the distinction between civil solidarity and other dependencies, the Code (1804) permitted only those liabilities freely contracted by individuals for limited purposes and times (Art. 1202). The historical evolution of the term is tracked within the Jewish community by Lisa Moses Leff, ‘Jewish Solidarity in Nineteenth-Century France: The Evolution of a Concept’, in The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 74, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), 33-61. The more global history is provided by Steinar Stjerno, in Solidarity in Europe: The History of an Idea (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004).
[5] V. Bradley Lewis, “Is the Common Good an Ensemble of Conditions?” Archivio di Filosofia, Il Bene Comune, Vol. LXXXIV, No. 1-2 (2016), 128.
[6] Hauke Brunhorst, Solidarity: From Civic Friendship to a Global Legal Community (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) (Cambridge: The MIT Press 2005), 3.
[7] Mater et Magistra (1961). The context (§§ 23, 146, 155, 157) is social relations that ensue upon economic activities: by individuals, networks, families, and nations. The pope’s language is keyed to the European Social Charter (1961).
[8] Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), §§ 9, 40.
[9] Centesimus annus (1991), §10.
[10] Ibid., §43.
[11] Aristotle seems to have believed that although all human societies begin in neediness and interdependence only polity completes itself by excellence of friendship beyond what was required to meet the initial needs. (Pol. I.2 [1252b25-30]).
[12] Legami, vincoli. Message of the Holy Father to the Participants in the PASS Plenary Session (27 April 2017).
[13] Stefano Zamagni, “Enhancing Socio-Economic Integration: The Civil Economy Perspective for a Participatory Society”. PASS 2017.
[14] We use the term “civil society” to cover everything that stands between the legal force of the state and the spontaneous forces of the market. Unless one really wants to claim that social forms are “intermediate” to two alien forces, it’s worth thinking twice, and hard, about the utility of this category civil society.
[15] Casti (1931) §11, 52.
[16] In contrast to social movements, political parties, field hospitals, Starbucks, or in “culture” without boundaries.
[17] Cf. 2 Cor. 5:1.
[18] CDF (2004), signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. §76.
[19] CDF, §74.
[20] Laudato Si’ (2015), §§62, 124.
[21] LS §228 capacità di vivere insieme e di comunione.
[22] Churches as “home” for the poor, Evangelii Gaudium (2013) §199.
[23] Amoris Laetitia (2016), §276. [Emphasis in original].
[24] AL §277; see also §44.
[25] In the late 19th century, Leo XXIII worried that all of the so-called “necessary societies” would be gradually reduced “to the genus of commercial contracts, which can rightly be revoked by the will of those who made them”. Humanum Genus (20 April 1884), §21. He imagined how liberal contract theory could create public authority entitled only to protect commutative justice – such as protecting the contractual rights of those who paid for the service of a fire department.
[26] AL §44.
[27] La elevatezza e la nobiltà (20 Feb. 1946), AAS 38, 144f.
[28] Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (2004), 10.
[29] AL §181.
[30] The top-down model of subsidiarity was developed in modern times to counter the claims of nation states to have a monopoly on fraternity. Reasons were also drawn from rather clumsy applications of Aristotle regarding societies “perfect” and “imperfect”. Even on the terms of Aristotelian scholasticism, however, the virtue of giving resides chiefly in the giver. Matrimonial society and the family give subsidium to the rest of society by way of efficient, material, and especially by exemplary causality. Indeed, one important reason for respecting communities other than the state is the dignity and efficacy of their subsidium. The top-down picture of subsidiarity needs adjustment, among other reasons because it has become a stumbling block for understanding how international solidarities can be “givers” without constituting yet another level of rectilinear top-down authority or power.
[31] Homily Casa S.M., 5 Feb (2015) Vatican Radio.
[32] Nicholas N. Eberstadt, “Our Miserable 21st Century”, Comm. (Feb. 15 2017).
[33] UNHCR Report (2015).
[34] Cf. Eberstadt’s “Our Miserable 21st Century”, and Case and Deaton, “Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century”, op. cit.
[35] Case and Deaton, op. cit., 30.
[36] See Johan Lagerkvist’s Tiananmen Redux: The Hard Truth About the Expanded Neoliberal World Order (Lang, 2016).
[37] LS §§53, 175.
[38] World Meeting of Popular Movements in Old Synod Hall, 28 Oct. 2014.
[39] There is plausible social science evidence for this principle of priority of membership to external outcomes. Case and Deaton, for example, say that they are unable to show that decline in real wages is a more fundamental cause of new patterns of mortality and morbidity than a welter of other forces suggesting social exclusion. A team of psychologists at Yale surveyed studies on income inequality in some forty-four countries. In both lab studies and real world interviews, most people report that income should be “more equal” than the status quo. The researchers at Yale, however, contend that inequality and unfairness are confounded, and when subjects are allowed to distinguish between the two they are most averse to unfairness. Of course, unfairness can pertain to different things: processes, particular exchanges, particular persons. But by common sense and experience, unfairness is usually predicated of social institutions in which we can identify a morally significant relationship between unfair measures of membership and unequal outcomes in income. Colloquially, we call this a “rigged system”. Starmans, C., Sheskin, M. & Bloom, P. “Why people prefer unequal societies”. Nat. Hum. Behav. 1, 0082 (2017).