Cardinal Reinhard Marx has encouraged the world to “think beyond capitalism” post-COVID-19, echoing a question posed also by Pope Francis even before the pandemic: “How can we work for an economy that really serves people and is not only oriented towards material interests?”

– “A simple return to the status quo is not possible” post-COVID-19: “Such a path was and is not sustainable”

“I agree with those who… are already convinced that a simple return to the status quo is not possible” post-COVID-19 “and that this pandemic, which is affecting all areas of life, is accelerating and exacerbating trends that were already apparent before”, Cardinal Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising in Germany, wrote in a September 8 reflection on the coronavirus crisis.

“The criticism repeatedly voiced in recent years that a purely economic globalisation, which basically only forces countries and economies to adapt to accelerated capitalism, is only too justified. Such a path was and is not sustainable”, warned Marx, who is also one of the Pope Francis’ closest collaborators as the Coordination of the Vatican Council for the Economy and a member of the pontiff’s Council of Cardinals.

Marx criticised that the promised turn in our increasingly interconnected world towards heightened multilateralism, cooperation and a common world order has not only not materialised but “has rather turned into unilateralism, self-interest and the competition of great powers on the various levels”.

The cardinal noted that the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated that trend towards sovereignism and given new strength to the capitalist mindset, “because obviously the aid provided by the states to the economy is also aimed at getting everything back on track as quickly as possible, without any idea of how to shape it or set new priorities”.

“The fact remains that the only thing that moves the economy is capital interests, worldwide”, the cardinal deplored, expressing his concern that the poor and marginalised will still not find a place in the world post-COVID-19.

– “The market does not solve social, political and ecological problems on its own, but tends to exacerbate them”

Marx devoted a considerable part of his essay to exploring alternatives to the capitalist order, which he said should build post-pandemic on the “return of ‘political economy'”, in the sense of “a new view of the relationship between politics and economy”.

“What we have seen anew is how decisive the state, the community, is, how important is the discussion about the state and the market [and] about the common good, public goods and private interests and the right relationship [of each] to each other”, the cardinal explained.

He continued by pointing out that “if all experience teaches us that the market does not solve social, political and ecological problems on its own, but tends to exacerbate them, then there can be no alternative to a politics that provides a framework and organises and brings to bear common goals, even on a global level”.

That project of a new political economy post-COVID-19 is all the more urgent, Marx explained, since “it is… to be expected that both within countries and between national economies, those who have much, both in terms of knowledge and capital, will emerge from this crisis stronger, perhaps even as winners. And those who have little, who are already living in precarious conditions… will be set back”.

– “An economy which only favours the ‘haves’ cannot be accepted”

In his reflection, Cardinal Marx urged the world to make the most of the coronavirus crisis to “strengthen the forces of solidarity and orientation towards the ‘world common good'”, for in that way “the crisis would also be an opportunity”.

The cardinal acknowledged that strengthening solidarity at this time is especially difficult, not only because of the challenges posed by the pandemic but also because “we have been experiencing for years that polarisation, nationalism, political and religious fundamentalism (in all religions) is on the rise in many countries, including the USA and Europe”.

Nonetheless, Marx insisted that “we need courage and determination to recognise the task of shaping the economy and society in the cooperation of the one human family in such a way that everyone is in view, especially the weak and sick [and] the poor and the marginalised”.

The cardinal stressed that that much holds true for society as much as for the Church, which must never cease to remind the world that “a politics and an economy which, in the so-called ‘free play of forces”‘ ultimately only favours those who are already above, those who already have, cannot be accepted and is not sustainable”.

More on Novena on the challenges of rebuilding the economy post-COVID-19:

In new book, Pope gives sneak peek of forthcoming encyclical, rails against “savage market economy” and “violent social injustice”

Francis urges “ecological retooling” of economy to counter “inhuman” pace of production, consumption

Vatican Secretary of State urges focus on person over economy in COVID-19 reconstruction

Cardinal Turkson invites humanity to “recraft and relaunch” economy, society post-COVID-19

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.