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Abstract

Based on a plenary presentation made at the Ninth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, held at Harvard Law School in 2010, less than two years after the 2008 financial crisis, this article argues for the restoration of ethical values and civic commitments in capitalism and economic enterprise, drawing on traditional religious, theological, and philosophical principles regarding the civic moral obligations associated with building and managing wealth. The article is divided into three main parts. It begins with an overview of reform measures emanating from the financial debacle, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and an explanation for why movements from the late twentieth to the early twenty-first century involving ethical investing (including Islamic finance), corporate responsibility, and corporate governance can make significant contributions. The article continues with an overview of what four of the world’s major religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism—have to offer to help stimulate broader public dialogue and frame change. It ends with a proposed vehicle and set of actions that involve the establishment of “communities of inquiry and practice” that draw on enabling technologies, such as social media and other digital interactive tools, along with pedagogical insights affecting teaching and learning. The goal of these communities of inquiry and practice is to build wider knowledge, heightened engagement, and improved performance among professionals, practitioners, and plain people regarding civic stewardship and fiduciary obligation in modern economic life.

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