Missiologists and economists
I’ve spent the last three days at the annual congress of the Southern African Missiological Society, and one of the things that struck me was how many of the speakers said, “I’m not an economist, but…” and then went on to talk about global economics.
Over lunch one day I chatted with Stuart Bate, who wanted to know what the “neoliberalism” that everyone was talking about meant. And for that I could refer to a blog post of mine (one in which I myself say “I’m not an economist but…”), which in turn refers to someone else’s blog post that no longer exists: Notes from underground: Liberalism, neoliberalism and neocons. To put it crudely, as I understand it, classical liberalism put political liberalism first, and economic liberalism was secondary. In neoliberalism, economic liberalism is all, or at least dominant.
Foucault points out that if classic liberalism, resting on “the historical experience of an overtly powerful and absolutist state”, had seen in (the state) the role of ‘defining’ and ‘monitoring’ market freedom, this conception is “inverted” under the neoliberal model. Here, rather than the “state supervising the market,” the market becomes the organising principle underlying the state…(n)eoliberalism removes the limiting external principle and puts a regulatory and inner principle (of the market) in its place”.
So in neoliberalism, rather than the “state supervising the market,” the market becomes the organising principle underlying the state.
Or, to put it in more theological terms, in neoliberalism the market (unlike the Sabbath) was not made for man, but man for the market.
But with all these theologians and missiologists talking about economics (prefaced by the disclaimer that “I’m not an economist but…”) I wonder what might happen if the next SAMS Congress were to arrange a panel discussion between a couple of Christian economists. I would find such a discussion between say, Azar Jammine and Arnold Mol very interesting indeed. I think that some of their ideas might turn out to be very different from each other, and that would give the missiologists something to get their teeth into.