In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II offers a radical reappraisal of the purpose of business. He sees it as an enterprise where the person-in-community not profit is at the center. In paragraph thirty-five he writes,
In fact, the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. [Emphasis in original.]
Not profit alone but “other human and moral factors” must be considered when evaluating business. According to John Paul II, broader remedies must serve as a corrective when the human and moral dimension of business is ignored. He envisions “a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation” that is meant to bend the marketplace to the service of all people. [Emphasis in original.] The market should not be left to its own devises but oriented to the common good. John Paul II explains,
Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.
Both the “forces of society” and the “State” have an important role to play in fashioning a just society.
Unfortunately, an “anthropological error,” a misunderstanding of the nature of the human person, is an important contributing factor to contemporary social problems. This topic will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming posts.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor Religious Studies