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By Bede Jarrett, O.P.
By power of its title alone, Mediaeval Socialism is a book certain to provoke. Regardless of how one defines the term “socialism,” as Bede Jarrett, O.P., notes, it “is a modern thing, and dependent almost wholly on modern conditions.” The question is well-worth asking, then: “How is it possible to find any real correspondence between theories of old time and those which have grown out of present-day conditions of life?” In this brief yet highly informative volume, Jarrett gives a fascinating sketch of mediaeval social conditions; an exposition of mediaeval communist theories and examples of their implementation; a detailed consideration of the Thomistic and Scholastic conclusions on the social question; and a challenging, hortatory closing chapter on almsgiving.
The mediaeval socialists thought, as St. Thomas indeed never wearied of repeating, that unrest and discontent would continue under any form of government whatever. The more each city changed its constitution, the more it remained the same. (Bede Jarrett, O.P.)
An astute inquiry into the material conditions of Europe in the Middle Ages, Mediaeval Socialism offers a clear enunciation of the mediaeval perspective on property and social responsibility—a perspective especially valuable for its implicit rebuke of the two modern extremes of radical individualism and absolute communism.
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Bede Jarrett, O.P., (1881–1934) was an English Dominican friar and distinguished historian and author. In 1921, he founded Blackfriars Priory at the University of Oxford, and revitalized the Dominican magazine Blackfriars, now New Blackfriars. His books include The Space of Life Between, Returning to the Lord, and The Life of Saint Dominic.