Economy of Charism

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A charism is a gift of the Spirit for the edification of the Common Good.

A social-Catholic approach to economics, explained by Luigino Bruni.


EoC refers to the Economy of Communion.


"The first characteristic: The experiences that come about as a result of charisms affirm the primacy of life over theory. They are therefore popular experiences, which always come about through praxis, and never as a result of experts or professionals sitting round a table. It is not a case of implementing projects, but carefully listening to life, from which intuitions come about, which are always richer than ideas alone. Therefore, when faced with a mismatch between what is being lived and what should be lived according to a good theory (even the best), the mismatch can never be resolved by simply changing the praxis, since the vital experience in and of itself embodies elements of inescapable truths, which then reveal themselves as essential for the success and authenticity of the project itself. This first dimension is very evident in the EoC. Faced with the spectacle of misery and unequal distribution, Chiara did not exclaim: “Let’s start a study centre to study a new economy”. Her proposal, instead, was an immediate action, based on few intuitions (essentially the sharing of profits in ‘three thirds’, industrial estates inserted in the small towns of the Movement, and ‘we are poor but many’). She left it to life to indicate how to proceed one step at a time. There are many projects to ‘fight poverty’, which are promoted by institutions, by the State for example. In the charismatic economy, like the EoC, life comes before the theoretical reflection which always accompanies it, because life is more dense with truth than whatever theory (which serves life in as much as it comes from life and is nourished by it.)

There is then a second typical aspect of charismatic economy experiences. These experiences come about as a response of life to the problems of specific people. Chiara was crossing the city of Sao Paolo and she was struck by the thought that there were people of the Movement, members of her family, in those favelas. The EoC came about for them, it did not come about in an abstract but in a practical way. It is always something vital, alive, rather than a humanitarian project to build a better world. Then, once they come into existence, if they are authentic charismatic projects, they will also demonstrate their universality, but nearly as an unintentional effect, which was not part of the original inspiration.

The third characteristic: These charismatic experiences call into question the idea of wealth and of poverty. Here St. Francis is a paradigmatic model. After his conversion he returned from his journey to Spoleto, and straight away threw away the proceeds of his business, since he understood that the true goods are others: the choice of poverty became his new wealth. More in general, every time a charism arrives in economic history, it calls into question the concept of ‘good’. It says that true goods, ‘good things’, are not those commonly understood: money, power, success. Goods become poverty, the least, communion, not having but giving. A charism, especially a great charism, turns the ordinary vision of things and goods on its head.

There is a fourth characteristic which also summarises the preceding ones: charismatic experiences are gifts of ‘different eyes’ which make us see beautiful things in problems we face. When a charim is at work, those who are part of it see something different, it is the gift of a new gaze. For example, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke of the poor, she loved to repeat: ‘do not call them problems, call them gifts.’

Source: THE ECONOMY OF COMMUNION. Luigino Bruni. Draft essay for the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 2008.