cover image Redeeming Capitalism

Redeeming Capitalism

Kenneth J. Barnes. Eerdmans, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7557-0

Barnes, a Christian theologian and business ethicist, delivers a tour de force arguing that capitalism fails most people but isn’t beyond repair. The 2008 global financial crisis, writes Barnes, was the first shot in a battle for the soul of capitalism. The size and impact of the crisis forced Barnes to contemplate not whether capitalism needs to be reformed but rather whether it deserves to be reformed. To make his points, he barrels through the history of modern capitalism, beginning with Adam Smith, touching on Marx’s incisive critique of capitalism’s excesses, diving into Max Weber and the Protestant ethic, and finally landing with an analysis of what he calls “postmodern capitalism” that includes sections on the Occupy movement and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He concludes that capitalism should be salvaged and that there is no economic system that provides a workable alternative. As a solution to the intransigent problem of income inequality, Barnes proposes a “virtuous capitalism” not based on wealth accumulation and conspicuous consumption but on human flourishing through reforming “the social, political, theological, and ethical drivers that have formed our economic system.” This means “ethical constraint” on the part of the ultra-wealthy combined with a society-wide rejection of “ever cheaper, less useful, disposable products.” By clearly explaining the history of markets and corrosive effects of contemporary capitalism, Barnes’s well-reasoned book will help readers forge a more empathetic way forward. [em](May) [/em]