Economic Theology, Theological Economics location:Lumsa University, Rome date:20-21 May 2014
Specifically, under present consideration are notions of desire, both within contemporary consumer capitalism and postmodern philosophy as desires of lack. Within contemporary economic understanding, late consumer-capitalism centers upon a managing not only of material resources, yet actively engages in constructing new autonomous identities amid the formation of the consumer's purportedly "unlimited desires" for a limited amount of goods. Such a logic of desire is arguably recapitulated in postmodernity's weak subject and an ontology of lack, wherein the foundational assumption is that what we desire, is not fulfillment and therewith love's end, but desire itself, paradoxically asserting the lack of fulfillment as an end in itself. A similar desire of lack can be identified immediately underneath postmodern debates upon the 'gift' (Marion, Derrida) that seek to secure it as an [im]possible pure gift by directly appealing not only to the gift's adventitious gratuitousness, but more so as antithetical to relational economies of exchange and reciprocity.
In contrast, a primary idea or kernel within Christian Tradition is that of oikonomia or 'economy' (Przywara 2014). Seen for example in terms such as the 'economic Trinity' and 'economy of salvation'—entails an understanding of "economy" as the uncreated/created givenness of relationships marked by a certain plentitude and abundance—the exemplarity of 'all things in Christ' as well as its soteriological admirabile commercium—rather than that of scarcity and lack. This distinct logic desire of plentitude and excess will be put forth as a robust theological alternative by retrieving the prophetic dimensions intrinsic to the mystical theology of the Brabantine contemplative Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381) and his synthesis of the common life [ghemeyne leven]. Drawing upon a rich Trinitarian and theo-anthropological basis for the Brabantine contemplative, desire is prolonged in view of its unyielding insatiability—a stirring restlessness, which positively mirrors humanity's natural union with God, in whom our uniquely human desires originate and actively respond to through our graced works of virtue and justice.