Madeleva lecturer discusses global economy
Alaina Anderson | Sunday, April 27, 2014
Thursday, the Saint Mary’s Center for Spirituality presented the 29th Madeleva Lecture. Christine Firer Hinze spoke at the lecture, titled “Glass Ceilings and Dirt Floors: Women, Work, Catholic Social Teaching and the Global Economy.”
Elizabeth Groppe, director of the Center for Spirituality, said that Hinze is a theology professor and director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. She is the author of two books and numerous scholarly essays in books and journals.
Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney said the lecture is a highlight of the academic year.
“Our mission statement talks about instilling in our students a life of intellectual vigor,” Mooney said. “This lecture is a wonderful example of the intellectual life which exists here on campus.”
Hinze said she plans to focus on the possibility for a renewed approach to the economies within we work and live today.
“I will look at economy from the other end of the usual telescope: regarding market economy from the perspective of the non-market work and activities performed very locally, in households, especially the households of non-elites and the working poor,” Hinze said.
“And while taking this standpoint may seem humble, more ‘dirt floorish’ than ‘glass celingish’, we will find that it connects us directly to the most significant, practical ‘ground-floor’ economic and ecological issues facing us today.”
Hinze began by talking about household economy. She said household economy’s job is to assure its members’ provisioning through the work of producing, acquiring, distributing and stewarding its resources.
“What do people seek to gain by participating in these local and household economies?” Hinze said. “… We might say we seek livelihood. … Catholic social thinker John A. Ryan summarized the elements of economic livelihood nicely as sufficiency, security and status.”
“These words can help us imagine what God’s economy provides and enables us, in turn, to provide for ourselves and others,” Hinze said. “God’s great household envelops, grounds and surpasses all the other households and economies in which we dwell.”
Secondly, Hinze spoke about modern market economies and the shifts in livelihood that have impacted the households and people economies are meant to provide for.
“First, with the rise of modern market economies, productive work became separated from its traditional location within or near familial households … Second, to manage this new dependency on an impersonal, wage economy, there arose a new, gendered division of labor,” Hinze said.
“In a third major shift, economic sufficiency becomes dislodged from fixed or stable measurement … [having] ‘enough’ becomes an ever-receding goal that is redefined as more, better, newer than now and threatens to lose all meaning.”
Hinze also said feminism has recently brought married women and mothers of young children into the waged workplace.
To conclude the lecture, Hinze spoke about how we need to move toward modern oikos economics, coming from the Greek word Oikonomia, management of households. She said prior to the modern era, economy and household were similes.
“Oikos economics will thus cultivate open and fair markets whose boundaries, rules of engagement [and] activities are carefully regulated in light of the dignity and wellbeing of the real people and the interrelated, human and natural economies they serve, affect and depend upon,” Hinze said.