ECON 20504  Distributivism:

Economics of the Catholic Worker Movement

Fall 2007


            This course seeks to understand “distributivism”; an approach to economics developed by G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Arthur Penty, among others. It was embraced by Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the Catholic Worker Movement.

            The student’s primary responsibilities are: 1. Read the assigned materials and come to class prepared to discuss them; 2. Research and write an 8-10 page paper (due December 12) on one of the following:

a/ organizing a “business” to produce and/or distribute needed goods and services by and for the homeless,

b/ a critical review of one of the examples from the November 28 class,

c/ an analytical book review of E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful;

d/ another topic approved by the instructor;

and 3. As part of your research you will volunteer at the Peter Claver Catholic Worker House or its drop-in center, Our Lady of the Road, for 8 hours during the semester.


Background Reading:



October     10: Introduction (4:30-5:45pm, Flanner 323)


Thomas Storck, “What is Distributism,”,5,1-28-2000/Storck.htm


Philip Harold, “Towards a humane economy: a reply to Thomas Storck,”,6,3-7-2000/Harold.htm


Joseph Zoric, “(re)Distributism (re)Considered,”,6,3-7-2000/Zoric.htm


Thomas Storck, “The good of distributism: a reply to critics,”,7,3-27-2000/Storck.htm


            Peter Chojnowski, “Distributism: Economics as if People Mattered,”



October     17: Movie (4:30-7:30pm, Flanner 725)


            Entertaining Angels



October     31: Distributivism and Catholic Social Thought (4:30-5:45pm, Flanner 323)


            John C. Médaille, “Distributivism and Catholic Social Teaching.”   



November   7: Distributivism and the Catholic Worker Movement (4:30-5:45pm, Flanner 323)


            Dorothy Day, “"Catholic Worker Positions," The Catholic Worker, May 1972



Dorothy Day, "All the Way to Heaven is Heaven."


            Dorothy Day, "Articles on Distributism – 2."   


            Dorothy Day, "On Distributism: Answer to John Cort."


            Mark and Louise Zwick, “Roots of the Catholic Worker Movement: Distributivism.”



November  14: Is Distributivism Bad Economics? (4:30-5:45pm, Flanner 323)


Richard James Neuhaus, “Economics in Verse and Prose,” First Things (April 1995), plus Replies. and


E. F. Schumacher, “Buddhist Economics,” in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Harper & Row, 1973), pp. 53-62. (Schumacher said he called it Buddhist economics because calling it Chestertonian economics would have put people off if they had even ever heard of him.)


Ed McPhail, “Distributism and ‘Modern Economics’,” in Beyond Capitalism and Socialism: A New Statement of an Old Ideal (HIS Press, forthcoming 2007), pp. 145-168. See at



November   28: “The Not-for-Profit Economy.” (4:30-7:30pm, Flanner 725)


            “The Mondragon Experience”

            Oklahoma Food Cooperative

            “Worker Owned Cooperatives”

            “Home Care Cooperatives”

            “The Capital Ownership Group”

            “The National Center for Employee Ownership”

            “The E. F. Schumacher Society”


            “Miraculous Metals.” Talk by Mike Baxter




December    5:


            Mark and Louise Zwick, “The Legacy of the Catholic Worker in a Troubled World,” Ch. 17 from The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins (Paulist Press, 2005), pp. 295-320.