Can the medieval world still speak to the modern? The implicit answer in Bede Jarrett’s remarkable book, Social Theories of the Middle Ages, is a resounding “yes”. Allowing the great voices of Gratian, Bonaventure, Thomas, Suarez, and many others to articulate the medieval worldview, this work is fascinating as a purely historical study. It also serves, however, to present the foundation whereby Christendom began to articulate the vision of a different kind of common life. For embedded in medieval doctrines regarding law, women, Christendom, art—and especially just war, property, money-making, and education—are principles that we would well relearn in the present age.
In our present world, the highest good is considered the creation and maximum fulfillment of any and all individual desires. As a result, one primary need goes wanting: the realization of ourselves as creatures in relation, in communion. Jarrett shows how in rediscovering the inner structure of the medieval social world, we might forge our own adaptation of these principles in a new embodiment of distributist order. And in shaping such an alternative vision—one which can transcend the division and dehumanization of current political, economic, and social structures—there is no better starting-point than Social Theories of the Middle Ages.