From a 2017 vantage point, it’s easy to forget just how radical this book was, says Samuel Gregg in this week’s Acton Commentary. In penning the Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Novak was the first theologian to really make an in-depth moral, cultural, and political case for the market economy in a systematic way.
Needless to say, Novak’s book generated fierce reactions from the religious left. The opprobrium was probably heightened by the fact that the Spirit confirmed what had become evident from the mid-’70s onwards: that Novak was well on his way to abandoning his previously left-wing positions.
Thirty years ago, however, many Christians — Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, clerical, and lay — were marching in precisely the opposite direction to Novak. Theologians in the Americas and Western Europe were still waxing lyrical about “dialogue” with Marxism. The fight-back led by Blessed John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger against the doctrinal heresies and Marxist analysis underlying liberation theology had only just begun.