Notes on the Economic Ethics of the Franciscan School
Keywords:San Bernardino da Siena, Alessandro Bonini di Alessandria, Giovanni Duns Scoto, Economy, Ethics, Fra Pietro di Giovanni Olivi, Franciscan political thought
In recent years studies surrounding the Low and Late Middle Ages have suggested an interesting direction for research regarding the relationship between the thinkers of the Franciscan School and the origins of capitalism. The author’s analysis presents surprising results that surpass Weber’s thesis on the links between Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism : the reflection of Franciscan theologians needed to clarify the difference between usury and loan, between luxury and proper use of goods, within the horizon of the common good, and therefore created the conditions for economic growth. It has paradoxically contributed to the formation of a commercially semantic lexicon and a widespread social culture, in which the society of the market has established the fundamental categories for subsequent developments. Without detracting from the great wealth of ideas born out of the Thomistic school nor the literary forms of secular humanists, this essay invites us to re-examine Franciscan economic thought in light of the current, serious economic and financial crisis. In order to overcome this crisis we must examine not only the sphere of production, but also of nonproduction, that is, the economy of gift, fellowship, and the sharing of goods, which does not exclude competition. On the contrary, it places competition within solidarity and its communal and social value.