A book of social theory and contemporary commentary.
Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
“A genuinely essential book. It draws from an unusually wide range of first-hand experience as well as theoretical sophistication, and provides an unsparing diagnosis of the lethal vacancy at the centre of our culture. We have so shrunk and redefined what we mean by value that individuals and institutions alike are going through varieties of inner (and often outer) disintegration. The challenge is how we are to restore both a connected social reality and a critical social imagination. Deploying social science, psychology, ethics and theology together. Chris Steed gives us cause for hope as well as anxiety.”
“The great questions of the day are questions of value. We dwell in a world haunted by escalating inequality and environmental degradation; at world at risk from global terrorism and impersonal forces. It is a world where the natural sphere with which we interact so profoundly has lost its sacred quality and become a resource; a world conditioned by progressive domination of a monetary scale applied impermissibly across the board. Amidst the astounding technology, the niche consumption and the financialisation that characterises much of the globe, the prevailing mood music is that the only values we can only usefully measure are expressed in terms of economics. The near vacuum of ideals means that constantly, incessantly, we are back to numbers, to the balance sheet. As a result, our way of life is characterised by fragmentation and by a short-term focus on profit.
“Whether it is called the Greater Good, the Common Good or the Collaborative Commons, in the realm where we are more than isolated entities, measures of quantity and numbers are unavoidable. Yet quality is also vital to human flourishing. What after all is wealth for? What kind of society do we want to be in? What price the non-quantifiable and non-economic goods that make life worthwhile?
“Our journey will take us through contemporary landscapes in which our current model of economy and society focuses on how what you are worth depends on measures of quantity – how much you have or earn. These arenas give rise to significant casualties. The value and worth of people is under assault in contemporary society. Yet a question is inescapable. Can we do things differently? What would a different way of organising the economy look like?”