Questions about the economy and religion?

Professor Govert Buijs

Govert Buijs is a professor occupying an endowed chair in Christian Philosophy on behalf of ‘Stichting Christelijke Filosofie’ at Erasmus School of Philosophy. He is fascinated by the ways in which ideas and ideologies can captivate large groups of people or even entire societies. In his work, Buijs studies how this resonates in the design of the political and economic order and society as a whole. Central themes in his work are 'markets, morality and ideology', 'religion in the public domain' and 'religion and civil society'.

What is the meaning of economics? Why do we work so hard? Wouldn't be fifteen hours of work per week be sufficient, as Keynes once predicted? And why do we formulate a name for the sum of all this labour, the economy, which can have good and bad times, which can grow, shrink, come to a halt or flourish. Economics is a concept which causes us to worry continuously.

Markets| ideologies | civil society | agapè (love) | Christian traditions

An economy with more time for each other

“We suffer from a restricted economic rationality, or a 'financil rationality'. And that has started to colour and determine our spirits. Philosophy can be important here: let's sit down and see, when do we think life is good?'

Endowed Professor in Christian Philosophy Govert Buijs pleas for a rethinking of the economy, a new economy with more time for contemplation - and for each other. "When do we think that life is good? And when do think life is less good, or bad even? Research shows - and you can think about it yourself - that material freedom plays an important part in our experience of happiness, to a certain extent. However, relationships are just as important. We just do not have a lot of concepts to signify this. When somebody says: I actually would like to work a little less, so I can spend more time with my family, this doesn't fit in our economic rationality. But it does fit in a human rationality."

Homo coöperans

In a podcast of  Studio Erasmus, Buijs explains what he means with humans as 'homo cooperans'. "Man is not just an economic being, it is in fact a lot richer. People are very much in need of help, we can barely keep ourselves alive, in comparison with animals. However, we do possess an great creativity, we can develop things. We can achieve this through exchange and in collaboration with others."

"For a long time, Earth was not occupied by a lot of people, nature was a given. Now we have reached the point that nobody, whether left or right, can maintain that this planet is infinite. Do we want to exhaust nature and deplete it? Or is it important to us that nature stays intact? Might that also be a dimension of 'the good life'?'

About the impact of the coronavirus, he says: "We always used to think that the economy would just go on, there is no alternative. Now we see: you can stop, regardless of the question whether this was justified or not. The fact that we can pause our economy, take matters in our own hands, is special."

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