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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Bernard Lonergan, S.J. and Jane Jacobs have devoted much of their intellectual careers to thinking out the dynamic natural-human environment. Lonergan and Jacobs worked in very different lines of research - systematic theology and urban economics, respectively. Despite predictable differences in their thought, there are also remarkable commonalities in their analyses. Both thinkers have argued that the same dynamic principles that govern the functioning of natural ecologies are also to be found when human social and economic systems function well, but are absent when human systems go wrong. Both have argued that the violation of principles that pertain to natural ecologies is destructive not only of the natural environment, but of communal and economic well-being as well.

Jacobs came to prominence with the 1961 publication of her classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She has since gone on to extend her analysis to the unique characteristics of urban economics in several books and articles. In her most recent book The Nature of Economies (2000), Jacobs draws the results of her previous work on urban economic patterns into a synthesis with recent insights into biological systems. She argues that exactly the same principles (or "processes" as she prefers to call them) that sustain vital, evolving natural ecologies also underpin robust and dynamic economies. Where Jacobs's work gives a richly detailed account of the processes shared alike by natural and human systems, Lonergan developed a parallel, integral account of natural processes, human social and economic organization, and the "economy of salvation." In his classic work, Insight, Lonergan argues that the dynamics of human innovations and self-correction correspond in striking ways to the emergence, growth, development, and decline in the natural order. Unlike natural ecologies, however, the possibilities of genuine social and economic development are distorted, Lonergan argues, by the forces of "bias." In his role of theologian, Lonergan goes on to explore how divine grace heals the distorted dynamics of natural and human ecologies.


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