Scarcity and Abundance

The final short chapter of Being Consumed concerns our most basic assumptions about how the world and economics functions. Free market capitalism assumes scarcity. This is the basis of all economic theories and understanding. Supply and demand is based on the idea that there is a scarcoty of one or the other.

God’s economy on the other hand is based on the idea of abundance (Mt 6:25-34). Cavanaugh again turns to the Eucharist as source of abundance. Paradoxically the abundance of this meal begins in the kenosis, or emptying, of Christ, the divine into human form (Philippians 2:6-11).

The act of consumption of the Eucharist does not entail the appropriation of goods for private use, but rather being assimilated to a public body, the Body of Christ. As Augustine reminds us, God is the food that consumes us” (95)

This meal unites us into one universal community and also creates a sort of nervous system in which the pain of others is communicated throughout the body. In Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats Jesus identifies himself with the poor and hungry. “For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35). The market claims that it will gradually produce abundance through trade and capitalism, though it never seems to arrive. The Eucharist announces the in-breaking of the abundance of the kingdom into the present.

Cavanaugh uses the example of The Economy of Communion Project to illustrate abundant economic life in concrete terms. The profits from these business are divided into three equal parts: direct aid to the poor, education projects that further a culture of communion, and a third for development of the business (99). One participant said this:

It is not merely a question of reaching the right persons and giving priority to the most urgent needs… It also involves making sure that the assistance be part of a fraternal rapport that does not tolerate positions of inferiority and superiority because it sees the other person as “another me,” as a brother, and this is possible due to the fact that we are dealing with persons who know how to share (99-100)

This is what it means to embody an alternative to the world’s order, to base the ordering of our lives on the assumption of abundance rather than scarcity.

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2 thoughts on “Scarcity and Abundance

  1. Ryan

    Great book. Though some of the Catholic theology seemed a little overly complicated/confusing, Cavanaugh is right. The church needs to be a place where these new alternative economic solutions are put into action.

    Reply

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