Christian Ethics in an Age of Inequality
In a deeply unequal world, our economic status shapes our pursuit of virtue whether we have enough resources to live comfortably or struggle to survive
Our understanding of inequality as a moral problem is incomplete. It is not enough to say that inequality is caused by moral failing. We must also see that influence runs in both directions. Inequality harms people’s moral development.
In Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck, Kate Ward addresses the issue of inequality from the perspective of Christian virtue ethics, arguing that moral luck—our individual life circumstances—affects our ability to pursue virtue. Economic status functions as moral luck and impedes the ability of both the wealthy and the poor to pursue virtues such as prudence, justice, and temperance, and extreme inequality exacerbates the impact of wealth and poverty on virtue.
With these realities in mind, Ward shows how Christians and Christian communities should respond to the challenges inequality poses to virtue. Through working to change the structures that perpetuate extreme inequality—and through spiritual practices, including contentment, conversion, encountering others, and reminding ourselves of our ultimate dependence on God—Ward believes that we can create a world where all people can pursue and achieve virtue.
Introduction: Reframing the Problem of Inequality
2. Christian Virtue Ethics
3. Toward a Christian Virtue Account of Moral Luck
4. Defining Wealth and Poverty for Christian Virtue Ethics
5. Wealth, Virtue, and the Dangers of Hyperagency
6. Poverty, Virtue, and the Impact of Scarcity
7. Inequality and Virtue
About the Author
"Inequality has risen to the top of the political agenda. Long neglected by economists, it is now seen as a pressing concern. Ward makes the argument that inequality harms moral development. She shows that it can impede virtue among rich and poor alike. This is a perspective with deep resonance in the Christian tradition but which attracts comparatively little attention in contemporary discourse. With this novel perspective, Ward offers an indispensable contribution to the literature on inequality."—Anthony M. Annett, Gabelli Fellow, Fordham University
"In this insightful and vibrantly interdisciplinary volume, Kate Ward shows how the moral luck of social inequality misshapes characters and divides communities, by conferring individualistic hyperagency on those of us who have more than enough, and demeaning deprivation on those who lack it. Fusing compelling analysis with practical examples and directions for transformation, Ward’s welcome contribution advances the frontiers of both Catholic economic and virtue ethics. Highly recommended!"—Christine Firer Hinze, professor of theology, Fordham University
"Kate Ward’s innovative contribution to research on economic inequality focuses on the extent to which such inequality causes, rather than merely reflects, moral deformation in society."—Theological Studies
"Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck makes a vital and well-constructed contribution to Christian virtue ethics."—Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics
Kate Ward, who received her PhD from Boston College in 2016, is an assistant professor of theology at Marquette University. She has published articles on wealth, virtue, and economic inequality in journals including Theological Studies, the Journal of Religious Ethics, Heythrop Journal, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.
280 pp., 6 x 9
280 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ