Updated: May 15, 2019
Miguel D. Lewis wrote, "Capitalism is religion. Banks are churches. Bankers are priests. Wealth is heaven. Poverty is hell. Rich people are saints. Poor people are sinners. Commodities are blessings. Money is God."
Once you start deconstructing religion, you start looking around and start wondering about other beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies we follow blindly each day without questioning them. The narrative of capitalism is an example, and something worth cosndiering on the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.
John Maynard Keynes wrote, "The modern economy is propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy, and these are not accidental features but the very causes of its expansionist success. The question is whether such causes can be effective for long or whether they carry within themselves the seeds of destruction. If human vices: such as greed and envy are systematically cultivated, the inevitable result is nothing less than a collapse of intelligence. A man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his very successes become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they may indeed achieve astonishing things but they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence."
Are the ills of capitalism a few bad apples abusing the system, or is the system of capitalism corrupt at the core and requires greed and oppression to thrive? It's a question worth considering.
Consider the possibility that capitalism is a story we made up... a story that is currently oppressing people and our planet. Consider how credit/debt is a central feature of this oppressive system. Consider the possibility of alternate economic systems. Consider how intentional community could be an alternative. Is a moneyless society possible? Is a post-capitalism society achievable?
Maybe you've never thought of this before. Maybe you should. This is why I wrote this post.
I've been writing quite a bit lately on the intersection of spirituality and social change. Spirituality or enlightenment is not a retreat from the world, passivity, or the magical thinking that the world is going to be transformed apart from what we human beings do. Relating spirituality to social change means delving into a variety of different issues, including the narrative of capitalism.
If you want to seriously dig into this question of capitalism, a good book to read is: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher. Here’s an online pdf version.
Schumacher writes, “I suggest that the foundations of peace cannot be laid by universal prosperity, in the modem sense. because such prosperity, if attainable at all is attainable only by cultivating such drives of human nature as greed and envy, which destroy intelligence, happiness, serenity, and thereby the peacefulness of man. It could well be that rich people treasure peace more highly than poor people. but only if they feel utterly secure – and this is a contradiction in terms. Their wealth depends on making inordinately large demands on limited world resources and thus puts them on an unavoidable collision course – not primarily with the poor (who are weak and defenseless) but with other rich people.”
We need to reimagine “spirituality” to include discussions about things like how to make a gift economy scalable, or what it would look like to operate with a transformed mindset and practice of economics that is a manifestation of our higher awareness. Spirituality doesn’t have to be class-privilege or magical thinking; it can be intellectually vigorous, robust and engaged in the challenging questions and opportunities before us. A new world is not going to drop down from the sky upon us. No savior is going to drop down from the sky and fix it. We are who we’ve been waiting for.