ABSTRACT

This essay surveys the emergence, over the last four decades, of a distinct genre of Jewish ethical writing about economics and speculates that its sunset may have already occurred. Unlike much previous Jewish economic writing, which was often brief, scattered, or secular in orientation, this genre consists of book-length works that reach deeply into Jewish sources to ground their interpretations and constructive recommendations. However, this strategy creates new problems and tensions: philosophical tension with halakhic literature, which prefers case law to political-economic theory; political tension within the genre, between the conservative subgenre of business ethics and its progressive counterpart, social justice literature; and methodological tension between normative, constructive exegesis and historical criticism. Welcoming the increased attention to economy among constructive Jewish ethicists and theologians, the essay nonetheless offers methodological critique, arguing that the necessary incorporation of political economy and history should transform the genre for the future.

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