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FEBEA interviews Stefano Solari: Neo-Thomism, Social Economy and the role of Ethical Banks

Monday, 1 June, 2015

Here's the article of FEBEA's research officer Simone Esposito on his interview to Professor Stefano Solari of the University of Padova.

On April 9th we interviewed Prof. Stefano Solari from University of Padova on the influence of Neo-Thomistic philosophy on Roman Catholic Social Economy theory as postulated by scholars like Liberatore, Tapparelli, Toniolo, Pesch and others.

Neo-Thomistic moral philosophy, also known as Neo-Scholasticism, started from scholars who aspired to understand Thomas Aquinas opera while they were adding some new concepts to original Aquinas theories. Central ideas of this thought are the concept of natural law, and the research of a new way to intend science, incorporating new perspectives, such as ethical values as an intrinsic factor of humanity, and man sociability. This approach was built concerning science in opposition to a certain type of enlightening movement, and concerning economics in opposition to utilitarian and, successively marginalistic, synthesis from Mandeville, Bentham, Smith, and then Walras, Mengel, Ricardo, and others.

While Political Economy is about government and its economic policies, Social Economy is related to civil society and human sociability. Central concepts in Social Economy are solidarity and ethicality. In this view private property is allowed, but involves both ownership rights and obligations such as to manage the property for the common good of community and not just for an individual goal. Capital is considered a product of saving activity, but not a productive factor, it doesn’t produce any value. Only human labor and human features, such as creativity, intelligence, competences, are considered productive factors. From this point of view labor force has a central role in the production system, and the favorite business model is the co-operative or other participative models like popular banks.

From 1960 Social Economy had difficulties to face the globalization problem due to its local community, sociability and civil society basis. This fact fostered a loss of importance of this theory, on the other hand in the last 20 years it became again popular thanks to the rise of third sector organizations and the progressive reduction of European welfare systems.

The opinion of Prof. Solari is that for a bank which would be defined as ethical, investments in real economy and particularly in small and medium local enterprises are crucial. In fact in  opposition to the rationale of recent reforms, Solari thinks that it is possible to reduce risk in investment, not through merge operation and big capitalizations, but through the ken of clients, investments, by increasing trust and reciprocity in between borrowers and financial institutions in a local constest.

You can find more detailed information in the videos of the interview. Each video it is about one different question. Here follows the video list including questions related to each video.

1)    The passion for Economics;

2) The need of a pluralistic approach in Economics courses;

3)    On Neo-Thomism;

4)    Neo-Thomism, Social Economy and Marginalism;

5)    Social Economy, Private Property and Capital;

6) Three historical steps in Social Economy development;

7)    Recent developments of Social Economy;

8) Social Economy, Solidarity and European Union economic policies;

9)    The role of Ethical Banks.


Stefano Solari is Professor of Political Economy, Economy of Institutions, Business Administration and Public Finance at universities of Padova, Treviso and Venezia, Italy. He has a PhD from Université di Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Paris). He is member of the Editorial Board of HETP, History of Economic Theory and Policy, edited by F.Angeli and Quaderni dell'Artigianato, edited by Il Mulino. He is Scientific Director of Leone Moressa Foundation and Vice-President of Fondazione Impresa. He is also part of the Scientific Committee of Toqueville-Acton Center and of Tonolian Studies Foundation. He has published several apers on the history of Neo-Thomism and Social Economy theory.

He is a member of the following associations: AELN, Associazione degli Economisti di Lingua Neo-Latina, AHE, Association for Heterodox Economics, AIE, Associazione Italiana degli Economisti, AISPE, Associazione Italiana per la Storia del Pensiero Economico, ASE, Association for Socio Economics, ACGEPE, Association Charles Gide pour l'Etude de la Pensée Economique, EAEPE, European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy, ESHET, European Association for the History of Economic Thought, HEIRS, Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations, SASE, The Society for the Advancemet of Socio-Economics, STOREP, Storia dell'Economia Politica, World Economics Association, WINIR, World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research.