Social Justice and Subsidiarity: Luigi Taparelli and the Origins of Modern Catholic Social Thought

by Thomas C. Behr
Catholic University of America Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-0-8132-3118-1, eISBN: 978-0-8132-3137-2

Luigi Taparelli, SJ, 1793-1862, in his Theoretical Treatise of Natural Right Based on Fact, 1840-43, presents a neo-Thomistic approach to social, economic, and political sciences grounded in an integral conception of the human person as social animal but also as rational truth seeker. His conceptions of social justice and of subsidiarity are fundamental to modern Catholic social teaching (CST). His work moves away from traditionalist-conservative reaction in favor of an authentically human, moderately liberal, modernity built on the harmony of faith and reason. He zealously deconstructs laissez-faire liberal ideology and its socialist progeny in scores of articles in the Civiltà Cattolica, the journal that he co-founded in 1850. His arguments figure prominently in the Syllabus of Errors (1864) of Pius IX. Though a moderate liberal himself, his reputation as anti-liberal reactionary and defender of Papal temporal sovereignty is the chief reason why Pope Leo XIII later sought to quiet Taparelli’s contribution to the foundations and pillars of modern CST that began with the restoration of Thomistic philosophy in Aeterni Patris (1879), and the “magna carta” of modern Catholic social teaching, Rerum Novarum (1891). Pius XI relies heavily on Taparelli’s concept of subsidiarity in Quadragesimo Anno (1931), and sought to advance interest in Taparelli studies. However, Taparelli’s eclectic philosophical orientation and writing style have been a considerable stumbling block. In this present book, Taparelli’s ideas are evaluated both for their philosophical character but also in their historical context. Taparelli’s theories of the just society and ordered liberty, are as timely nowadays for reasoned political and ethical discourse as ever. The book includes an appendix of translated portions of the Theoretical Treatise of Natural Right Based on Fact that relate to subsidiarity.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Social Justice Reconsidered-Taparelli’s Realist Social Science
I – Taparelli and the Age of Ideology
The Religious Question from the Middle Ages to the Nineteeth Century
Traditionalists and Liberals in the Restorationist Period
Eclecticism and Taparelli’s “Conversion” to Scholastic Philosophy
The Scholastic Revival: The Appeal of Thomism
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Psychology and Anthropology
Natural Law and Politics
Reading the Saggio
Two Philosophies
Dialectic of Theory and Fact
Pius IX and Civiltà Cattolica
Leo XIII from Aeterni Patris to Rerum Novarum
III – Social Justice and Subsidiarity
The Problem of Social Justice
Introduction to Subsidiarity
Genealogy of the Idea of Subsidiarity
Natural, Voluntary, and Dutiful Societies
Authority and the Common Good
Principles of Subsidiarity in Practice
A Coherent Account of Social Justice
Natural Right to Subjective Rights
Social Justice Rightly Understood
Social Justice and Subsidiarity Applied: Social Economics
Compared with Naturalistic Economic Thought
Principles and Objectives
Scope and Limits of State Intervention
Conclusion – Taparelli’s Realist Social Science
Summary of the Argument
The Development of Catholic Social Teaching
1. Self-Interest Rightly Understood: The Three Motors of Human Will/Action
2. Subsidiarity: Sociality and Hypotactical Society
3. From Natural Right to Subjective Rights to Social Justice
4. Social Justice, Subsidiarity, and Social Economy
Appendix. Luigi Taparelli, SJ, “Treatise on Subsidiarity”

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