On the Use of the Self: The Economic Implications of Theological Anthropology
This dissertation develops a theological address to capitalism’s problematic work-ethics by extending the recent work of political Augustinianism into the economic sphere. In particular, I argue that a doctrinally coherent address to the problem of capitalist work-ethics must begin with theological anthropology rather than a doctrine of God. An Augustinian-inflected theological anthropology posits a drastically alternative vision of human being than is assumed in those work-ethics, and that Augustinian anthropology helps to re-frame the nature and function of labor. Work, I argue, is an animal phenomenon; it is not a uniquely human form of agency. Humans are distinguished from their animal others in their intellect, which makes possible by their love and worship of God. After developing an economic reading of Augustine’s infamous usi/fruti distinction, which I posit as the foundation of an Augustinian economic theology, I turn to the question of work in particular. I analyze Augustine’s treatment of work within the monastic context and argue that Christian theology must treat work in terms of an ongoing life of worship and liturgy. One must use oneself for the enjoyment of God. That premise, when taken in conjunction with Augustine’s own form of political criticism, leads to a refusal capitalism’s labor structures and practices, as has been partially articulated in feminist, post-work discourse. Capitalism is ultimately unable to deliver on its promise of happiness and justice by way of labor, and Christian theology must identify a vision for and relation to work in terms of worship and love in order to make possible any level of fidelity within a global, capitalist economy.