Wilhelm Roepke may have been the soundest economist of the twentieth century. He understood the limitations as well as the strengths of his discipline. Economists are often tempted to take the easy way out, by denying reality to aspects of human existence and reducing them to arbitrary and subjective tastes and preferences. Roepke never does this, and this is his strength. He realizes that all of these are legitimate aspects of human experience which must be satisfied in a balanced and harmonious social existence. Nature, sex, religion, beauty, and politics are all meaningful as parts of the whole. Problems occur only when each segment attempts to become the whole.
The original title of this book, Civitas Humana, contains a double meaning. It promises a treatment of questions fundamental not only to human society but also to humane society. The volume combines distinct aspects of life. Half of the book is devoted to questions of economic and social life. The other half examines spiritual and national life. Chapters include "Moral Foundations," "The Place of Science in the City of Man," "Counterweights to the State," "Congestion and Proletarianisation of Society," and "Economic System and International New Order."
Although Roepke recognized the validity of the nation in the modern world, he was constantly trying to find the smaller agencies within society in which real allegiances and loyalties were to be developed. His ideas continue to be of significance. As described by William F. Campbell in the new introduction, The Moral Foundations of Civil Society is a necessary addition to the libraries of economists, sociologists, theologians, and philosophers.