In Commonwealth and Covenant Marcia Pally argues that in order to address current socioeconomic problems, we need not more economic formulas but rather a better understanding of how the world is set up — an ontology of how we and the world work. Without this, good proposals that arise lack political will and go unimplemented.
Pally describes our basic setup as “separability-amid-situatedness” or “distinction-amid-relation.” Though we are all unique individuals, we become our singular selves through our relations and responsibilities to the people and environments around us. Pally argues that our culture’s overemphasis on “separability” — individualism run amok — results in greed, adversarial and deceitful political discourse and chicanery, resource grabbing, broken relationships, and anomie.
Maintaining that separability and situatedness can and must be considered together in public policy, Pally draws on intellectual history, philosophy, and — especially — historic Christian and Jewish theologies of relationality to construct a new framework for addressing present economic and political ills.
Marcia Pally teaches multilingual multicultural studies at New York University and at Fordham University and is a guest professor in the theology department at Humboldt University in Berlin. She is also the author of The New Evangelicals: Expandingthe Vision for the Common Good.
Journal of Markets and Morality "This erudite and original book offers a substantial contribution in its articulation of the political and economic implications of a theology of covenant and relationality."
Religious Studies Review "Pally masterfully brings political and economic ethics together with a sound theological narrative."
William Storrar — Center of Theological Inquiry "Has the West lost its pizzazz and gravitas? asks Marcia Pally at the start of Commonwealth and Covenant. Not if we read this magisterial study of relationality in Western theology and culture, brimming as it is with her signature brio and erudition as a leading thinker on religion and society. With an original and compelling thesis as her lantern, Pally lights up not only the history of ideas with dazzling insight but also our present parlous state with hopeful remedy."
Harvey Cox — Harvard University "In her previous writing Marcia Pally has demonstrated keen insight into the American religious situation. In this well-crafted and highly readable book she takes a central principle in the American spiritual heritage — the covenant — and relates it with impressive skill to the psychological and political dimensions of our lives. This book advances the discussion in many ways and should not be missed."
Charles Camosy — Fordham University "The challenge of promoting values beyond Western-style individual autonomy — but avoiding top-down oppression — is both a puzzle for academics and a broad social problem with real-world consequences. This most welcome book leverages an ancient and helpfully foreign concept — the biblical idea of covenant — to move beyond this paralyzing binary. The trajectory set by Marcia Pally, tightly argued and socially oriented, is one that many different kinds of people can and should support."
Tsvi Blanchard — National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership "Marcia Pally's Commonwealth and Covenant asks one of the big questions of our time: What worldview is now needed for us to develop productive public policy? Pally grasps that what we need is not more economic theory but, rather, a full worldview. In addressing this fundamental and daunting task, she moves elegantly and authoritatively through modern intellectual history as well as Christian and Jewish theology. Marked by clear and graceful prose, this book is a must-read for those concerned about our economic and political future."
Joel C. Hunter — Northland, a Church Distributed "Brilliant! In addition to its insightful lessons in history, philosophy, culture, government, psychology, and moral theology, this book contains a description of the virtue derived from the proper relationship between self and society. . . . This book is so helpful to me as a pastor because it affirms the basic theme that each person is a valuable creation of God, yet made for relationships."
Amos Yong — Fuller Theological Seminary "Questions about 'the one' and 'the many' have persisted over millennia. Some in monotheistic traditions emphasize the former, to the exclusion of the latter; in reaction, philosophies and theologies of pluralism have emerged more recently exploring 'the many,' but they verge onto political anarchism and consumerist excess. Marcia Pally's Commonwealth and Covenant opens up a broad and generous middle way, one that is interdisciplinarily informed, historically rooted, philosophically robust, and theologically foundational. Any sustainable program for a common global future will need to heed and implement in some respect this relational vision."
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