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News | 1st December 2023

New Book Explores Integral Human Development from Catholic Social Tradition and Capability Approaches

Key Details

Catholic Social Teaching
Integral Human Development

Book cover of Integral Human DevelopmentThe Laudato Si’ Research Institute will be celebrating the online launch of a new book that brings into conversation two major moral traditions in the social sciences and humanities that offer common areas for understanding, interpreting, and transforming the world.

Integral Human Development: Catholic Social Teaching and the Capability Approach (Notre Dame Press, 2023) is edited by Séverine Deneulin, Director of International Development at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute and Associate Fellow at the Oxford Department of International Development, and Kellogg Faculty Fellow Clemens Sedmak, Director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and professor of social ethics in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.

The book brings together for the first time social scientists and theologians in dialogue over their respective uses of Catholic social tradition (CST) and the capability approach (CA). The contributors discuss what their mutual grounds are, where they diverge, and where common areas of collaboration and transformative action can be found. They offer a critical analysis of CA from the perspective of theology and provide an original account of CST. Integral Human Development offers a broader historical, biblical, social, economic, political, and ecological understanding of CST than that which is currently available in the CST literature.

Clemens developed the idea for the book when he was acting director of the Ford Program for Human Development and Solidarity a few years ago. “I realized that the Ford program works at the intersection of the capability approach and Catholic Social Tradition, so I became interested in exploring these two ways of approaching values in development,” he explained. 

“I organized a joint working group between the Kellogg Institute and the Center for Social Concerns on this topic. Séverine, who is an expert in both discourses, happened to be on campus for a year and we started to work on the project.”

“The capability approach with its emphasis on values and freedom can enrich the social teachings of the Catholic tradition with its emphasis on faith and community; conversely, Catholic Social Teaching can offer conceptual and analytical lenses for the capability approach,” shared Séverine. “This volume seeks to point out the significant common ground that these two normative traditions – one secular, one faith-based – share: a commitment to an integral understanding of development, so much needed today as we face an unprecedented challenge of maintaining a functioning common home for all humanity to flourish.”

Integral Human Development was conceived for a heterogeneous audience, both academically and geographically. It is aimed at students, scholars, and practitioners in global affairs, development studies, or the social sciences who seek to better understand Catholic teaching and what it can offer to address the current socio-environmental challenges. It is also aimed at students and scholars in theology and religious studies, and those working in faith-based organizations, who seek to understand what the normative framework of the capability approach can contribute to the development of the social teachings of the Catholic tradition. It is intended both for those in the global North and the global South.

Citing Pope Francis and his words from Laudato Si’, where he proclaimed that solutions to the ecological crisis and other social issues must arise from “syntheses between faith and reason,” Séverine said, “We hope that the book will inspire critical reflection and analysis of contemporary realities from the perspective of human dignity. Most of all, we hope that the book will enable faith-based and secular perspectives to come together on a shared journey of reconciliation with the world that is our home.”

To find out more about the online book launch event on Tuesday 5 December 5pm (GMT) and to register, click here.