Many paradoxes of global society - territorial and individual inequality, development without employment, growth of average income without improvement of quality of life - have more to do with social inadequacy than with material shortfalls. Two worldviews concerning the relations between economy and society continue to ignore that situation. One worldview considers any business enterprise as an "asocial" institution, operating on the ethically neutral terrain of the market, from which it expects only efficiency and creation of wealth; it is the state's duty to re-distribute the outcomes in order to achieve greater fairness. The second worldview sees business as an "antisocial" institution and considers the market as a fierce arena of exploitation and subordination society's weaker members. The perspective of civil economics, espoused in this book and which has its roots in classic economic thought and in medieval Christianity, holds that principles "other" than profit and mere instrumental trade have a role to play in economic activity and markets; civil economics assigns an important position to that set of activities often labelled "non profit" or "third sector". This perspective recommends, besides the development of typical forms of state and market activities, the stimulation of civil welfare institutions - social cooperatives, fair trade, ethical finance - in which the market can become an arena of civil and civilised encounters, perchance even of public happiness.
Luigino Bruni teaches Cooperation Economics at the University of Piacenza.
Stefano Zamagni teaches Economic Institutions at the University of Bologna and History of Political Thought at the Bocconi University in Milan.