contractarian theories of economic justice, entitlement theory has little to say about the power structures which lie behind the institutions of the market economy.

In the global context, one of the key characteristics of poverty is the country in which people are born - in other words the citizenship of the poor. The traditional economists* response to this problem is that the potential economic benefits of migration in terms of increased employment and higher wages can be achieved just as well by labour-intensive exports and international investment in developing countries. None the less, citizenship is still the single most important asset most people possess in developed countries as it represents a claim on the accumulated social capital of the relevant country and its place in the world economy, In this case, the appropriate test in liberal political theory would presumably be whether a rational person would be willing to be born into the world irrespective of his citizenship. Clearly the answer is negative - in which case the present international economic arrangements can be properly judged as unjust15 -as liberation theology would argue from quitte different premises.

In a single global economy, the poorest countries and vulnerable groups who do not possess the resources to compete effectively have become more vulnerable to exogenous shocks and fall further behind in the race for technological competence/6 From this point of view, development cooperation {'aid') can be seen as part of an international social safety net which reflects not only the global ethical responsibilities of the rich for the poor, but also the claim of the poor upon the rich as members of the same global community- This is not just a question of making international markets work more efficiently, so that the welfare of both donors and recipients is increased; the ethical argument for aid derives from the obligation to relieve human suffering when this can be done at little personal cost, which is a universal Kantian obligation in relation to all humans simply by virtue of our shared humanity. This obligation requires that resources be transferred to the poor, irrespective of state or national boundaries, to provide them with the means of survival. However, it is difficult to establish any clear philosophical argument for aid beyond this basic "human entitlement' because the Aristotelian notion of redistributive justice is usually applied to individuals within an identifiable community. To apply it internationally poses two problems: first, whether the contractarian responsibility of individuals extends beyond state boundaries; and second, whether i states can properly be considered as moral agents in the international sphere.17 This issue is also one to which liberation theology may have more to offer than liberal moral philosophy.


Economics - in the broad 'political economy* sense in which I have used it in this chapter - has a central place in liberation theology. Despite the fact that this theology does not really address the central questions of modern economic theory, it has undoubtedly had a significant influence on the way in which the economics of poor countries has developed in practice, In particular, liberation theology has changed the way in which social movements, non-governmental organisations and international aid agencies view economic policy - addressing such pressing problems as external debt and structural adjustment. Moreover, the inclusion of the prophetic critique of the market economy within ethical discourse through concepts such as the 'right to life* and 'structural sin' is clearly an important step forwards in a radical theology - not least because it permits a popular hermcneutic derived from the everyday experience of the poor.

In consequence, the 'economics of liberation theology' is very different from other traditions in the Christian approach to economics. On the one hand, there is the 'mainstream* Roman Catholic tradition of social responsibility established by Aquinas with its modern expression in Rerum Novarum and Populorum Progression This tradition, which stresses the mutual responsibility of labour and capital (and poor and rich countries) to work in harmony, is the economic equivalent to Christian Democracy in politics and has been particularly influential among reforming elites in Latin America during this century. In marked contrast, liberation theology not only considers capital and labour (the 'civilisation of wealth1 and the 'civilisation of poverty') to be essentially in conflict by their very natures, but also that historical struggle between them will eventually lead to the construction of the Kingdom as promised in the Beatitudes. The difference between the two theological positions is most clear in the notion of 'sinful structures* where the poverty and exclusion in a competitive market economy as experienced by poor societies lie at the core of the peccatum mundu It is this prophetic challenge, rather than association with Marxism or with revolutionary movements, that has made the liberation theologians the target of the Vatican.

On the other hand, there is a long-standing Protestant tradition of approaching the economy from the standpoint of the duties and obligations of the Christian towards one's fellows in the market/8 The duty of charitable giving to the poor is accompanied by the obligation of responsible stewardship of wealth for the common good, a concept which can be usefully extended to the prudent use of natural resources on behalf of future generations. The emphasis on fairness and individual responsibility in this approach to economics can be seen as reflecting a greater concern with justice on earth, so to speak, than the dominant Catholic tradition. None the less, the liberation theologians' emphasis on the historical nature of class conflict and the essentially communitarian nature of the just cconomy as a precursor of the Kingdom is very different from the essentially individualist Protestant approach to the Christian economy, which takes the market and its institutions as a fact of nature rather than a sinful construct. However, in Latin America, many Protestant theologians in the evangelical tradition have been deeply influenced by (and contributed to) liberation theology - and this influence is particularly marked in the approach to economic questions.

In the late 1990s, although economic conditions in Latin America are not much better than before, there has been a major change since the 1970s and 1980s in the sense that democracy and human rights are now better established throughout the continent. This opening up of the political sphere has probably diverted popular protest against economic conditions away from the temple towards the forum, so to speak. Combined with steady pressure from Rome to exclude liberation theologians from bishoprics and seminaries, the public voice of liberation theology on economic questions may become less audible in years to come.

Meanwhile, poverty is still a central problem for the global economy in the post-cold war world:

*. * the number of absolute poor, the truly destitute, was estimated by the World Bank at 1.3 billion in 1993, and is probably still growing. One fifth of the world lives in countries, mainly in Africa and Latin America, where living standards actually fell during the 1980s. Several indicators of aggregate poverty - 1.5 billion lack access to safe water and 2 billion lack safe sanitation; more than 1 billion arc illiterate, including half of the rural women - are no less chilling than a quarter-century ago.**

So in the economic sphere at least -. this theology is not a passing fashion. Its corollary - oppression - is unfortunately not a fashion but rather a growing problem. The theology of liberation is thus still very necessary, because Christian faith must today respond with credibility -and theological rationality - to the oldest and newest question as posed by Gutierrez: how to tell the poor that God loves them/30

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