The Keough School’s Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion has awarded the 2023 Nasr Book Prize to Anthony Annett, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development, for his book Cathonomics. As indicated by its portmanteau title, the book links Catholic social thought and economic insights, addressing global inequality through a new paradigm that prioritizes the common good rather than economic gain for an elite few.
“Religious traditions are important sources of ethical teachings, and such teachings should be a vital part of economic conversations and decisions,” the selection committee said. “This is the reason why Cathonomics is so important. Annett shows how Catholic social teaching’s rich legacy can contribute to creating a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous world for all. Widely shared across the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, the principles of Catholic social teaching can help us reach a consensus on how to address our most pressing global challenges.
“Through a normative discussion, Annett invites us all to reflect on our moral obligations to each other and to imagine and build a world in which the good life is not a privileged one but available to all. In this way, Annett’s work amply meets the criteria for the Nasr Prize.”
The prize, formally known as the Randa and Sherif Nasr Book Prize on Religion & the World, highlights the work of scholars who reimagine the connection of religion and global affairs. It is funded by Drs. Sherif Nasr and Randa Nasr, co-founders of siParidigm Diagnostic Informatics in Pine Brook, New Jersey.
“I was delighted and humbled to hear that my book would be deemed worthy of such a great honor,” said Annett, an economist with a PhD from Columbia University who spent two decades with the International Monetary Fund. “It is a joy to have been selected for the Nasr Book Prize.”
In Cathonomics, which begins with a foreword by renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, Annett draws from the work of Pope Leo XIII, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle, demonstrating how both ancient and contemporary wisdom can be deployed in the service of contemporary economic problems.
“Even though different popes have different emphases and different circumstances to which they are responding, there is an unbroken thread of coherent and consistent moral principles from the beginning all the way through Pope Francis,” Annett said. “These moral principles—the common good, integral human development, care for creation, the preferential option for the poor, for example—are directly related to the challenges we face in the global economy today: poverty, inequality, climate change, and the future of work. We see a moral referendum on these challenges developed quite coherently over time.”
Though Annett’s book prioritizes Catholic thought, he also aimed to address an audience outside the boundaries of Catholicism and even organized religion.
“When I was writing I was conscious that I had two audiences in mind: a Catholic audience, but also people of all faiths and no faith who are interested in a new economic paradigm that gets past the neoliberalism of the past four decades,” Annett said.
Annett’s book concludes on a hopeful note, asserting that economic change is on the horizon, animated not by top-down forces but by grassroots efforts.
“One thing Pope Francis says over and over is that solutions need to be not just for the poor but with the poor; they need to be active agents of their own development.” Annett said. On this note, Annett concludes Cathonomics with a stirring call to action: “Let us hear and respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. And let us build something better.”
The Ansari Institute has planned multiple events centered on the themes and questions raised by Cathonomics.
“This book is rooted in Catholic social teaching, but it is conducive to generating a wide-ranging, multi-faith conversation,” said Mahan Mirza, executive director of the Ansari Institute. To facilitate such a conversation, the Ansari Institute will confer the book prize in conjunction with a panel discussion at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago on August 17. The Ansari Institute also will host a multi-faith symposium on February 14-15, 2024 with scholars who will discuss the book from the perspective of various faith traditions. In addition, Annett will visit Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns in the fall.
Established in 2017 as part of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs,, the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion is dedicated to studying, learning from, and collaborating with religious communities worldwide for the common good. Its wide-ranging work includes research, teaching, outreach, and interaction with religious communities, faith and civic leaders, academics and journalists, and the general public. Together, these efforts enable the institute to foster deliberation, offer training, implement transformative educational programs, and generate ideas on how religion can continue to serve as a force for good in the world.