5.4.3 Review and discussion of Unit

Back to 5.4.2


You are now at the end of Unit 5.  As at the end of earlier units, this page outlines two ways of reviewing what you have learned in this unit.

First open Unit 5 Contents to remind yourself of what has been covered.

A.        Assessing the ‘learning outcomes’

Look again at the learning outcomes for this unit (given in 5.1.1). As reproduced below, they show where in the unit each of them was most directly addressed.

Learning outcomes for Unit 5

By the end of this unit, you will be able

  • to outline, with reference to the historical background of modern CST studied in Unit 2, the main contrasting positions in debate about economic life in the period since World War Two [5.1]
  • to explain the principle of the ‘universal destination of material goods’ and its significance for business activities [5.2]
  • to summarize CST’s vision of a ‘solidary’ or ‘civil’ market economy 5.3]
  • to engage in critical discussion of CST on economic life, including about how to do business in light of it [5.4].

These are all quite challenging learning outcomes.  How easily do you think you could do those things?

B.       Discussing your study

As with earlier units, how you can best discuss with others what you have encountered in this unit will depend on your context of study:

  • If you are studying formally, you may be expected to participate in a seminar on what you have read for Unit 6.  One student might be asked to prepare a discussion paper.
  • If you are studying informally in a parish, other Christian community or workplace, try to arrange an opportunity for discussion.
  • If you are doing private study, you may like to post your reactions to it at Comments on Unit 5.  If you do, I’ll respond.

Whichever of the above applies to you, your study will have provoked questions.  There have been five ‘exercises’ in this unit:

  • In 5.1.1, on whether you could recall Unit 4’s distinction of the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ senses of work
  • In 5.1.2, on your own experience of business – of investment, supply to markets, trade and consumption
  • In 5.2.4, on the benefits of business enterprise, according to the Compendium
  • In 5.2.5, on the two senses of ‘capitalism’ distinguished in part 1 of the unit
  • In 5.3.4, on what was new and distinctive in Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate

Here are some questions for discussion:

1.  I have suggested that relative to liberal capitalism (or neoliberalism), state socialism, and ‘social capitalism’, what CST stands for in economic life may be seen as a ‘fourth way’.

Is this a fair representation of what we find in CST?

What are its main points of difference from each of those three other positions?

What points of similarity are there?

2.  Is CST’s vision of a ‘solidary market economy’ or ‘civil market economy’ realistic? 

What were the three points made in the unit in response to the charge that it is not?

3.  In response to the claim that it is not realistic, one rejoinder was that, while CST does present a vision of a non-capitalist, solidary market economy, the economy that actually exists will always be “an uneasy combination of capitalist and solidary practices”.

[W]hat exists in reality is not pure capitalism, but a market economy which neoliberalism pulls in that direction while other views and commitments, such as Christian commitment to love and service of neighbour, pull in a different, more humanizing direction. (5.3.2)

Do you think this gives a reasonably accurate picture of the range of ways in which people act in business?

4.  5.3.3 described ‘structures of sin’ as follows:

‘[S]tructures of sin’ are what are produced when multiple social sins form sinful shared practices…  They become customary and so are institutionalized.  This process establishes what then face people as structures which block right action and sustain wrong action.  Pope John Paul II wrote this:

[S]tructures of sin…  are rooted in personal sin, … [in] the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures, consolidate them and make them difficult to remove. And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behaviour (Solicitudo Rei Socialis, #36)

Can you think of examples of such structures from your own experience or observation?

5.  Here is a quotation from Caritas in Veritate (given also on 5.3.4):

The great challenge before us… is to demonstrate… not only that traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. (#36, italics in original, bold type added)

In light of the ‘exercise’ on this (5.3.4) and the reading by Nicholas Healy (5.4.1), try to come up with some examples of what this idea of ‘gratuity’ or ‘gift’ in business life should mean in practice.

6.  If you were to go into business in any area at all, what kind of product – whether a primary good, a manufactured product, or a service – would you ideally like to supply? 


Do you think it would be possible to run a sustainable business supplying that product?

If not, suggest something else that both appeals to you and you think could be supplied in a commercially viable way.

Finally, while I don’t wish to induce reckless decisions, why don’t you go into business to do just that? 



End of Unit 5


Go to Module A Outline

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