Monopoly Mayhem
Economic Mobility

Self-Realization and Progress

Jonathan B. Wight

Robert Fogel wrote a book more than 10 years ago that I have recently found time to read. 

In The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism (Chicago: The University Of Chicago Press, 2000), Fogel argues that spiritual capital is the defining resource inequality of the 21st century:

“The problem of self-realization … is the hallmark of our age and the greatest threat to the survival of our society. To achieve self-realization, each individual must have an understanding of life's opportunities, a sense of which of these opportunities are most attractive to him or her at each stage of life, and the requisite educational, material, and spiritual resources to pursue these opportunities. In the era that is unfolding, fair access to spiritual resources will be as much a touchstone of egalitarianism as access to material resources was in the past.” (Page 178)

“Spiritual resources are not limited to those found in the sacred realm but include the whole range of immaterial commodities that are needed to cope with emotional trauma and that, more often than not, are transferred between individuals privately, rather than through the market. Such resources include a sense of purpose, a sense of opportunity, a sense of community, strong family ethic, strong work ethic, and high self-esteem." (Page 178)

It is interesting that Adam Smith, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, also worried about the deadening of the moral imagination of the poor, who were consigned in factory work to repetitive tasks that allowed for no exercise of the mind or creativity.

As noted in a previous blog, the concept of spiritual capital has been the subject of a major Templeton foundation grant and various conferences around the world.


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