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Justice Not Greed (review)
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Justice Not Greed Edited by Pamela Brubaker and Rogate Mshana Geneva: WCC Publications, 2010. 224 pp. $14.00

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Advisory Group on Economic Matters (AGEM) advises the WCC and congregations on global economic issues. AGEM members from diverse backgrounds produced the papers in this volume. The introduction is by Rogate Mshana, WCC director for Peace, Justice, and Creation. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the WCC from 2004–9, introduces the rationale and role of AGEM in the global financial crisis. The book ends with a statement on just finance and the economy of life, adopted by the WCC Central Committee in September 2009. Justice Not Greed will be most useful in settings where there is interest in the intersection of ethics, the economic crisis, and Christianity in relation to the global economy, as well as among those who wish to follow the WCC. As expected [End Page 208] of conference papers, there is not a systematic development of an argument but overlapping ethical and economic analyses. All, however, are opposed to the status quo because of its manifest injustice, especially the impact on poor people.

If one were to impose a thematic development, it might go something like this, allowing for individual differences among the authors. Decolonization has resulted in a lopsided, Western, capitalist economic system predicated on greed (Jan Pronk), described by other authors as a beast or a cancer (vivid but unhelpful metaphors since the crisis was caused by humans, not nature). The world lacks appropriate international structures. We need new global institutions, a new global financial architecture that is predicated on, or at least takes into account, justice. Congregations, the ecumenical movement, and the WCC could play a significant role in helping the United Nations move toward such a system.

Several authors hope that the global crisis will provide a moment when such a change might become possible (e.g., Alexander Cobham’s “Blood-Stained Silver Lining”). Pamela K. Brubaker, Kim Yong-Bock, Roel Aalbersberg, Rienzie Perera, and Geevarghese Mor Coorilos examine questions related to the Bible, ethics, theology, a culture of “enough for all” (Musa Panti Filibus), the church as moral community, the ecumenical movement, and principles for an alternative economic system. Mariana Issa Zureikat argues for “econo-morals,” applying moral values to economic analyses. Thomas H. Kang advocates the capabilities approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Marcos Arruda suggests an economy of world solidarity with the “gross happiness index” as a standard for measuring progress. While most chapters include economic analysis, John Dillon wades into some nitty-gritty causes of the current financial crisis, with a positive nod toward the (never adopted) Keynes plan for the Bretton Woods system of monetary management. Marie-Aimee Tourres lays out impacts on the developing world, as does Xiao Lian from a Chinese perspective. Most of these authors argue for such global solutions as a global reserve system and a global tax system.

Justice Not Greed presents thoughtful, sometimes passionate papers that could form a basis for lively discussion. Yet real-world solutions often come down to the practice of democracy and political will. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the ecumenical movement possesses the will or the means to effect change because local organizing for political change is not a high priority at any level. [End Page 209]

Richard A. Hoehn
Christ the Servant Lutheran Church