Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety

Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety

Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety

Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety

Synopsis

Our global ecological crisis demands that we question the rationality of the culture that has caused it: western modernity's free market capitalism. Philip Goodchild develops arguments from Nietzsche, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marx, to suggest that our love of Western modernity is an expression of a piety in which capitalism becomes a global religion, in practice, if not always in belief. This book presents a philosophical alternative that demands attention from philosophers, critical theorists, philosophers of religion, theologians, and those in ecological politics.

Excerpt

2

Truth

Critical theory and structuralism

Repetition and exchange

In ages past, the pious thought about God. In order to exercise power, God must be an object of belief and desire, an ultimate guarantor of meaning. Acting through his humble servants, God required appropriate practices of thought. Capital, by contrast, exercises its power purely through socio-economic relations, without needing to become a universal object of reflection. Capital, being a benevolent despot, appears to permit freedom of thought, for thought itself is barely able to compromise its power.

Nevertheless, capital has until recently been subjected to regulation by sovereign powers. In order to advance capital accumulation, the priests of capital may attempt to diminish interference from governments by a variety of strategies, such as: constraining government policy by the threat of capital flight; establishing a new sovereign power that overrides national governments, the World Trade Organization, in the name of free trade; and limiting regulation of the markets in general. Similarly, to decrease taxation is to decrease national power; it is to give power to the individual to do as they wish with their money. Capital is an indulgent despot, allowing people to do as they wish both inside and outside the law; its priests are flatterers, trusting people with their own money, much as a gambling house trusts its customers to place their own bets. Never has a more humane, generous and free society existed than capitalist liberal democracy. It shifts responsibility from government to a collection of individuals who, in exercising rights rather than responsibilities, cannot be held accountable for sins of omission. Then the needs of the world which are not in practice met by profitable capital investment may be ignored in the name of the 'right' to dispose of one's property as one pleases. When such needs are essential to the survival of life, tragedy-of unlimited proportions-has and will necessarily ensue. Humane capitalism may destroy us all.

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