Friday, December 26, 2008

"Consumerism is not the problem—capitalism is."

"I think that Christians should stop yakking about consumerism. Consumerism is not the problem—capitalism is. Consumerism is the work ethic of consumption, the transformation of leisure and pleasure into duties. Talking about consumerism is a way of not talking about capitalism, and I've come to think that that's the reason why so many people, including Christians, whine about it so much. It's just too easy a target. There's a long history behind this, but the creation of consumer culture is very much about compensating workers for loss of control and creativity at work, and those things were stolen because capital needed to subject workers to industrial discipline. (I don't, by the way, believe that we inhabit a post-industrial society. Our current regimes of work are, indeed, super-industrial.) Telling people that they're materialistic is both tiresome and wrong-headed: tiresome because it clearly doesn't work, and wrong-headed because it gives people the impression that matter and spirit are antithetical. As Christians, we should be reminding everyone that material reality is sacramental, and that therefore material production, exchange, and consumption can be ways of mediating the divine."

- Eugene McCarraher
Britney Spears and the Downward Arc of Empire
from The Other Journal

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eugene McCarraher on "the Triumph of the Purely Therapeutic"

"The triumph of the therapeutic has consisted not of a straightforward shift from religion to therapy but of a triune metamorphosis of religion therapeutics into what Reiff calls the "purely therapeutic," a redefinition of therapy and personality from moral and religious to psychic and secular terms, a transfera of therapeutic powers from religious authorities to secular experts, and an uncoupling of personal therapy from aspiration toward a broader, collective destiny. In religious terms, personality denoted the human glory of likeness unto God, whereas therapy meant the transformation of desire in accordance with a community directed toward the "otherworldly"--a radically different world anticipated through practice in this one. In secular, "purely therapeutic" terms, personality marks the varieties of desire and facade, whereas therapy entails evasion of moral commitment--an evasion enabled by a market society that registers rather than transforms desire--and a simultaneous identure to professional expertise and cultural fashion."

- Eugene McCarraher from
Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Daniel M. Bell, Jr. on the Obsolescence of the State

"Yet, we might ask, have we not crossed a new threshold in recent decades as capitalism has increasingly undermined the governing authority of even the liberal, economic, state? Does not global capitalism mark a crisis of the liberal state? After all, it would appear that capital’s ability to eclipse national sovereignty is approaching the point of rendering the liberal state unnecessary, a point where passports can be replaced by credit cards and citizenship replaced by membership in trade alliances and associations. According to Deleuze, we have entered a new era, but the state-form has not been rendered obsolete. Rather, it is undergoing another mutation, a shift toward a much more active or aggressive advocacy of capital. No longer is the state satisfied with merely minimizing intervention in economy; now it actively pursues the extension of economy into every fiber and cell of human life. The state has become a model of realization for capital.'

- Daniel M. Bell, Jr. "The Politics of Fear and the Gospel of Life"

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read Daniel Bell's "The Labor of Communion in a Capital Age"