Radical Sufficiency

Work, Livelihood, and a US Catholic Economic Ethic

Christine Firer Hinze

Rethinking the means through which we can achieve economic well-being for all
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Rethinking the means through which we can achieve economic well-being for all.

In this timely book, Christine Firer Hinze looks back at the influential teachings of priest-economist Monsignor John A. Ryan (1869-1945), who supported worker justice and defended a living wage for all Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Advancing Ryan’s efforts to articulate a persuasive plan for social reform, Hinze advocates for an action-oriented livelihood agenda that situates US working families’ economic pursuits within a comprehensive commitment to sustainable “radical sufficiency” for all.

Documenting the daily lives and economic struggles of past and present US Catholic working-class families, Hinze explores the larger impulses and patterns—economic, cultural, political, moral, and spiritual—that affect the work these people perform in homes, in communities, and at paid jobs. Their story entwines with the larger history of the American dream and working people's pursuit of a dignified livelihood. Surveying this history with an eye to the dynamics of power and difference, Hinze rethinks Ryan’s ethics and Catholic social teaching to develop a new conception of a decent livelihood and its implications for contemporary policy and practice. The result is a critical Catholic economic ethic capable of addressing the situations of workers and families in the interdependent global economy of the twenty-first century.

Radical Sufficiency offers transformative strategies and strategic policy directions for achieving the radical Christian goal of dignified work and a good livelihood for all.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. John A. Ryan's US Catholic Case for Worker Justice

Chapter 2. Radicalizing Ryan

Chapter 3. Gender and Economic Livelihood

Chapter 4. Livelihood Racialized

Chapter 5. Class, Inequality, and Livelihood

Chapter 6. Livelihood Consumed

Chapter 7. Toward a Radically Sufficient Economic Order



About the Author


"Arising from a lifetime of experience with these issues, Christine Firer Hinze’s Radical Sufficiency is a refreshingly insightful look at how Catholic faith should encounter gender, race, class, and pervasive consumerism. She outlines a realistic ethic for a just economic order. A brilliant book."—Daniel K. Finn, Clemens Professor in Economics and professor of theology, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict

"What does it mean to have adequate income? How may we ensure that all members of society enjoy true sufficiency? This highly original volume explores how race, gender and social class intersect with social obligations as developed by the Catholic tradition of advocacy for worker rights, and especially by its early twentieth-century progenitor Monsignor John Ryan."—Thomas Massaro, SJ, professor of moral theology, Fordham University

"In Christine Firer Hinze's hands, Catholic social thought is a living tradition, attentive to the quotidian power relations of race, gender, and class. Hinze calls us to become persons of solidarity and sufficiency, to work together toward an economy of dignified livelihood for every family. What a beacon of hope!"—Kate Ward, assistant professor, Department of Theology, Marquette University

"With Radical Sufficiency, Christine Hinze has written an informative and fair-minded introduction to his life and work. Just as important, she has shown how the valuable aspects of his legacy can and should be carried forward by those striving to 'greatly, even radically amend the present system.'"—Commonweal

"Firer Hinze’s treatment of Msgr. Ryan is strong, her chapter on consumerism excellent, and her criticism of the anthropology of the current 'economic orthodoxy' (neoliberal market orthodoxy) incisive."—Catholic Books Review

"This is a very well-researched and well-written book that will add to the debate over the purpose of economic activity and the moral shortcomings of the current system."—H-Diplo

""A very fine work that evidences the mature reflection of a senior scholar who has long studied the subject matter, namely economic justice.""—Theological Studies


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Christine Firer Hinze is a professor of theological ethics and director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. She is the author of Comprehending Power in Christian Social Ethics and Glass Ceilings and Dirt Floors: Women, Work, and the Global Economy. She is also the coeditor of More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church: Voices of Our Times with J. Patrick Hornbeck, II, and of Working Alternatives: American and Catholic Experiments in Work and Economy with John C. Seitz.

312 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-64712-025-2
Feb 2021

312 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-64712-026-9
Feb 2021

312 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-64712-027-6
Feb 2021

Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ

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