God Contra Capital

It should be ridiculous to anyone with a brain in her head that we talk so incessantly about secularization. And it should be ridiculous because we are anything but secular, hardly less religious. Though they go by different names, the gods we worship still thrive, still plunder and kill and steal, still ravage nations and wage wars, and show no signs of dying anytime soon. It might be surprising to hear this. Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of god now more than a century ago. Nietzsche wasn’t wrong. It’s just that the God he proclaimed dead has nothing to do with the God of the scriptures. Nietzsche was correct when he said that God is dead and we have killed him. It’s just that he was talking about the God of the philosophers, perhaps best epitomized by Plato’s or Aristotle’s Ultimate Form, or Descartes’ or Berkeley’s god.1 This god of the philosophers is also the god whom Derrida was right to identify as the ‘transcendental signified,’ a sort of metaphysical center or telos, the origin of meaning and rationality, the ground of being and truth, the center of structure:

[S]tructure–or rather the structurality of structure– although it has always been involved, has always been neutralized or reduced, and this by a process of giving it a center or referring it to a point of presence, a fixed origin … Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the center receives different forms or names … It would be possible to show that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, or to the center have always designated the constant of a presence–eidos [form], arche, telos, energeia, ousia (essence, existence, substance, subject) aletheia, transcendentality, consciousness, or conscience, God, man, and so forth.2  

And though Nietzsche and Derrida are in a sense the supreme skeptics in the Western philosophical tradition, their ideas would suggest something beyond a kind of simple secularism, which, as it were, concludes the story at God’s funeral. To be sure, the death of God for them was a real historical event. And in the philosophical tradition, it was a total scandal: this was the end of metaphysics in the philosophy of the West. But for Nietzsche and Derrida it was hardly the end of the story. The death of God only meant the birth of newer forces, substitutes, standins. Michel Foucault, in many ways Nietzsche’s intellectual successor, was of a similar mind, suggesting, “It is not enough … to keep repeating (after Nietzsche) that God [is dead]. Instead, we must locate the space left empty by the [his] disappearance, follow the distribution of gaps and breaches, and watch for the openings that this disappearance uncovers.”3

If we follow Foucault in this operation, we can trace out the spectres of this God who died, investigate what Gods or idols or powers come to fill the void, the vacuum, the vast emptiness left by the death of the metaphysical center. We search out in supreme darkness. We listen in supernal silence. And in our searching, and in our listening, we see the faint shadows of other Gods, lurking about the margins of the old center, like ghosts haunting the sites they formerly attended, we hear their silent holy incantations, these Gods of men and women who have come to replace that old extinct center. And among this great pantheon of modern Gods, which includes, among others, Science, Power, Sex, and Lady Gaga, there is one who stands out prominently among them, who is worshipped most pervasively, but who, at the very same time, is also the subtlest, the hardest to discern, the one who is, as Flaubert said of the author, “present everywhere and visible nowhere.”4 Karl Marx, ever the prophet, is one of the few who not only named and identified this god, Capital, but also devoted entire volumes– Capital, The Communist Manifesto, The German Ideology, The Grundrisse, etc.- -to describing its nature. In Capital, for instance, Marx writes that:

[I]n its blind, unrestrainable passion, its werewolf hunger for surplus labour, [C]apital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working day. It usurps time for growth, development, and the healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight.5

And he goes on to say that “Capital  cares nothing for the length of life of labour power. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour power that can be rendered fluent in a working day.”6 Notice that Marx, for good reasons, doesn’t say that capitalists do any of these things, but ‘Capital,’ which, for our purposes, I have capitalized–because Capital is the Logos of the modern world, Capital is its unchallenged and all-powerful god. That is why what Marx and Engels say about the bourgeoisie, they might well have said about Capital–that it, like the God of Creation, “creates a world after its own image.”7

Capital as God and the Theology of Capital

And much like the transcendental signified of which Derrida writes, Capital too is a god who has in the past assumed different names: Baal, Moloch, Mammon, whom not incidentally, we are enjoined by Christ not to worship: “You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24). But we do, and our worship of Mammon, of money, of Capital, is the most widespread religion in the world. Indeed, the Marxist critic Walter Benjamin has suggested that “capitalism is a religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was” and goes on to suggest that it even has a “religious structure.” But we may question Benjamin in his further assertion that capitalism is a “purely cultic religion, without dogma.”8 For Capital, too, has its symbols, rituals, practices, people, institutions–all not only on par with the other established religions, but far and away beyond them. Rather as Christianity is the religion of Christ, capitalism is the religion of Capital, and it too has its scribes and pharisees, priests and acolytes; it too has its own surprisingly complex theology.

The American theologian Harvey Cox, for instance, was able to put his theological expertise to good use when, in reading through the economics of the major business press, he was able to trace out a whole theology. When, Cox, a theologian, read through The Wall Street Journal and the business sections of Time and Newsweek, he was “surprised to discover that most of the concepts [he] ran across were quite familiar,” and that “there lies embedded in the business pages an entire theology, which is comparable in scope if not in profundity to that of Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth. It needed only to be systematized for a whole new Summa to take shape.”9

Some attempts at this systematic theology have indeed been undertaken. The great summas of economic theology, among them Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, Friedrich von Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, and Ayn Rand’s magisterial treatise, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. These high priests of the capitalist religion make it their duty, rather as theologians have over the centuries, to spell out the moral demands of their supreme deities. In the Old Testament, Yahweh spelled these out to Moses in the Ten Commandments. In the new New Testament, the Commandments are known as the ‘Washington Consensus’: Thou shalt liberalize trade and finance, thou shalt allow markets to set prices, thou shalt end inflation, and thou shalt privatize. And it is this wisdom our high priests so graciously bestow upon us, that we might grow in our faith to the Lord our God Capital.

But among the elders, seers, and high priests of economic theology, there is one Paul who presides over the life of the church, who writes a good portion of its founding documents: His Holiness Adam Smith, all-seeing author of the Bible of Capital known rather more familiarly as The Wealth of Nations. But to be perhaps more fair to Saint Smith, one recognizes, as one does for Paul, his brilliance. It is rather his devotees who misunderstand and misuse him.

The notion of an Invisible Hand is a good example of precisely this kind of abuse, one which, more than Smith ever attempted to do, imbues the Market of Capital with the agency and attributes of God. In the single reference to the Invisible Hand in The Wealth of Nations, Smith makes the rather limited claim that in the specific case of deciding whether to deploy his capital abroad or domestically, the capitalist will, “upon equal or nearly equal profits” prefer “the home-trade to the foreign trade of consumption” for a number of self-interested reasons.10 So in this specific case, Smith is indeed saying that the self-interest supports the public good of the domestic market. Therefore, Paul Samuelson, one of the most influential economic theologians of the 20th century, and all the acolytes who have followed him, are careful to omit any reference to what would make Smith’s claim limited and circumstantial,11 so that the Inviolable Doctrine of the Invisible Hand means, in the most generally applicable terms, that selfishness and greed lead to the good of all. Consequently, government “intervention” in the market–that is to say, social spending on health, education, infrastructure and insurance–violates against the divine law. Instead, everything is to be privatized, everything from education and health to military spending, elections (effectively), and water.

I wish I were making this up. We are familiar with right wing calls to privatize education with vouchers and the like, such as when His Holiness Milton Friedman, after Hurricane Katrina, suggested that we use this “opportunity” to privatize the schools,12 and we are familiar–the debacle of a government shutdown now past–with their calls to destroy public healthcare, so I will not review these here. As for privatizing the military, we can recall that during the Bush administration, Rumsfeld advocated privatizing much of the military, and that the war in Iraq is the most privatized war in modern history. By 2007, there were more private contractors than soldiers in Iraq.13 Huge arms dealers like Halliburton, of which Cheney was the former CEO, made out with billions. Others, like Bechtel, made a more modest $680 million to develop electricity and water infrastructures.14 One only hopes that what Bechtel does in Iraq is different from what it did in Bolivia–where it privatized the water supply.

This grotesque version of Smith’s Invisible Hand theory, along with Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, have been used to support the reigning orthodoxy of economic theology known as ‘Neoliberalism,’ (the liberalization of foreign trade and opening of markets to foreign investment). Of course, it is conveniently omitted that the condition upon which Smith predicates his theory is a condition of “equal or nearly equal profits,” which is clearly not the case. One has to be a genius to overlook the fact that profit margins are far higher in the nations (too many to name15) where the United States routinely overthrows the democratic government and installs a brutal dictator who then crushes unions, suppresses wages, and slaughters dissidents. But this divorce of theory from reality, in practice, is precisely how the Capitalist religion functions, that is by faith.

Yet the faith of the capitalist is edified, like the faith of a believer, by miracles, and the religion of Capital has its own doctrine of miracles to support its Neoliberal theology. Let us consider a few examples of what are commonly referred to as “economic miracles” by the believers of the capitalist religion. The analysis is not difficult, if only because the results are remarkably consistent. For instance, Noam Chomsky, one of the most widely read and quoted writers on foreign policy on the planet and major critic of American foreign policy, has observed that in Brazil, which was a petri dish for free market capitalism, corporate profits soared spectacularly while wages fell and two-thirds of the population didn’t have enough food for normal physical activity. Or Mexico, where, as Chomsky observes, wages collapsed and “poverty increased almost as fast as the number of billionaires” under neoliberalism.16 Of all the “economic miracles,” perhaps the favorite example is Chile, where, after the United States helped to topple the democratically elected government of Allende and installed a brutal dictator who went on to murder and torture thousands of people, The Reverend Dr. Milton Friedman and the “Chicago Boys” reengineered the economy along freemarket neoliberal doctrine. As a result of this, poverty increased dramatically (from 20% to 40% toward the end of the Pinochet regime) and the shock of the economic program led to an economic crash in 1982 which required the Pinochet government to take over more of the economy than even the socialist Allende did. In a 1993 lecture, Chomsky summarized the effects of neoliberal structural adjustment programs: “Over the last ten years, there are 76 countries that have undergone structural adjustment programs … Every one of them is a complete disaster. The constant property that all of them have is that labor’s share in the economy … is declining rapidly.”17 It doesn’t take a genius to recognize this, only a little doubt. But that’s precisely the problem when the only thing miraculous about these “economic miracles” is that one must have faith to believe in them– faith, as St. Paul defines it, being the evidence of things unseen.

Against Capital: Breaking the Graven Images

So much for the theology of Capital. I have only briefly touched on its texts, its practices, its people, its doctrines. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Whether we know it or not, we worship this god, Capital. And if Christians are to take seriously the words of Christ- -“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24)–we must resist the fateful power of Capital, emancipate our minds from its spell. Resistance to Capitalism is hardly new in the Christian tradition. Reinhold Niebuhr, the greatest American theologian of the twentieth century, was a socialist. He was even a socialist candidate for public office once, opposed liberalism generally and FDR’s New Deal in particular, on the grounds that they were not Marxist enough, and argued that capitalism had to be destroyed.18 In addition to Niebuhr, the two greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth, also took socialism–that is, social rather than private ownership of capital–for granted. Barth even went on to say that “[t]he main task of Christianity in the West is … to assert the command of God in face of [capitalism], and to keep to the ‘left’ in opposition to its champions, i.e., to confess that it is fundamentally on the side of the victims of this disorder and to espouse their cause.”19 Against the power of Capital, Christians must proclaim the sovereignty of Christ. Against the Commandments of Capital, we must assert the divine law:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:3-4, KJV)

In order to break the graven image of Capital, it will be necessary, as I will argue, to transform its institutions in accord with the will of the divine. What are the institutions of Capital? They are above all its corporations. The corporation is Capital’s smallest basic unit. But, we might ask, what in the first place is a corporation? A corporation is a form of totalitarian organization, or what we might call economic totalitarianism. Its decisions, far from being democratic, are made by a small group of shareholders who own its capital and who disproportionately profit from the workers’ employment of the capital. As Chomsky has pointed out, the political equivalent of the corporation, that is to say, economic totalitarianism, is political totalitarianism, the fascist state. Conversely, the economic equivalent of the democratic state, or political democracy, is economic democracy, which has historically assumed the name ‘socialism.’20 Hitler understood this. He writes, for instance, “In the economic sphere Communism is analogous to democracy in the political sphere,”21 which is partially why he opposed democracy. It would lead to socialism: “Western democracy of today is the forerunner of Marxism… ”22 Democracy, and nothing else is what socialism consists in. The macabre travesties of socialism, Soviet Russia and Communist China, were totalitarian regimes, so by definition have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic socialism. They also called themselves democratic, but we aren’t fooled by this. If it is not democratic, it is not socialism. And if it is democratic, it is ipso facto not capitalism. Marx understood this:

Capital is, therefore, not a personal, it is a social power. When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character. (My italics)23

When the nature of the operation is transformed from economic autocracy to economic democracy, capital loses its nature as capital. To speak here in terms of existence and essence, it is the latter and not the former which is thus transformed in the apprehension of capital by the working classes. But when only the latter changes and the former, existence, remains, is this not called conversion–that is, to change the nature, or if you prefer, the character of a substance? And when Saint Paul describes the nature of conversion, that is, to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,” (Ephesians 4:22), does he not thereby unintentionally prescribe a way for the transformation of the substance of capital?

In this connection, it may also be relevant to recognize another observation Paul makes which might equally well apply to our considerations of capital. Paul writes of baptism: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). In this passage, Paul is using Christ’s death and resurrection as a prefiguration for the Christian life: just as Christ had died to the old and rose in the new, so too we must die to the old and rise in the new, and as we have just established, this applies not only to the individual, but to the communal life of men and women as well. In Paul then, we may read a prescription for the transformation of Capital. Baptism is the transformation of Capital, a change in its essence, in its character, its nature, in which capital loses its nature as capital. We must bury capital by baptism into death in order that it might walk in the newness of life, that is, that it might emerge transformed.

Economic Democracy

This transformation is accomplished by the democratization of the ownership of capital, in short, by economic democracy.24 By economic democracy is meant a transformation of the ownership from a private form to a social form, the management of capital from an autocratic form to a democratic form.25 It is, to express it crudely, the extension of the democratic ideal from the political sphere to the economic in such a way as to give those who work in a firm the power to make its decisions. The theory of economic democracy is underwritten by a number of assumptions. One of them is that economic production is, in the first instance, a social production. As Marx has said, “Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members … can it be set in motion.”26 As capital is only brought into being by the collective effort of workers, to them alone do the rights to its ownership rightly belong. Another, rather more practical, assumption which underwrites economic democracy is the belief, as John Dewey has expressed it, that “democracy is not in reality what it is in name until it is industrial [economic], as well as civil and political.”27 Without economic democracy, political democracy is a concept without substance, an empty promise, a vain lie. If economic power remains concentrated in the hands of a small coterie of the elite, the political “democracy” which it buys scarcely deserves the name. These observations are hardly speculative or hypothetical today, when the richest 1% of Americans owns 43% of the nation’s wealth, the richest 400 Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 150 million Americans (half the population), and the top 1% owns 35% of all stocks and roughly 50% of investment capital.28 Moreover, as a result of this economic power, the economic elite also overwhelmingly own the political system, in which the richest quarter of a percent of Americans makes 80 percent of all political contributions.29

Yet the question remains to be answered: how does the democratization of the economic spheres constitute a Christianization of that social order? How does democratization, having stripped capital of its nature as capital, permeate and animate it with a newer nature which is Christian per se? The democratization of capital is Christian precisely insofar as it manifests the Kingdom of God, the ethical principles of which constitute the ethical core of Jesus’s ministry. As John Dewey for instance is correct in observing, the ethical ideals of genuine democracy and the religious ideals of the Kingdom are, at least in the material dimension, one and the same. Both are animated by the same hope: the realization of the ethical life of the individual within the ethical life of the community. Moreover, keeping in mind as well that the capitalist form of economic organization is autocratic, it is enough to recall Jesus’ words to his disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:25-26). The capitalist form of economic organization is not in accord with the divine will. So it must not be so among us.

Perhaps this is what a Roman Catholic priest named Jose Maria Arizmendi understood when he inspired a group of students to launch a cooperative which grew to become Mondragon, now one of the largest exporters of durable goods (and one of the largest firms) in Spain. Mondragon is a worker-owned cooperative called run by over a hundred thousand worker-owners, and runs over 125 subsidiary companies, 75 industrial firms, five schools, a technical college, and a central bank. It is a particularly exciting example of the Christian ideal of prefigurationalism. Jesus, we can recall, reminds us that the Kingdom of God is already within us (Luke 17:21), not something to be expectantly waited for, but already here, already at work in the really-existing conditions of the world, depraved and degenerate as it is. Like Jesus’s call to embody what is paradoxically hoped for, to prefigure the coming kingdom in the midst of our fallen condition, Mondragon prefigures in germinal form that which might be hoped for on a grander scale. It prefigures socialism and economic democracy within the very framework of a capitalist order, within which it thrives, even in the throes of financial crises. So, for example, when 25 percent of all businesses in Spain failed as a result of the global financial crisis of 2008, less than 1 percent of Mondragon’s 125 businesses failed.30 And while the larger Basque region in which it is located suffers from a 12 percent unemployment rate, Mondragon has maintained zero unemployment.31 Moreover, the default rate of Mondragon’s central bank is “less than half that of other Spanish banks.” And the Basque region in which Mondragon operates, which was once the poorest region in Spain, is now, thanks to its cooperatives, one of the wealthiest, boasting both the highest standard of living and lowest unemployment in all of Spain.32

But we need not look far for examples. Democratic economic prefigurationalism can even be observed here in the United States, where there are upwards of 12,000 worker-owned enterprises.33 In an article entitled, “Everyday Socialism, American Style, Is Happening Now,” Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, suggests that socialism is not only as “common as grass,” with cooperatives and public utilities and the like, but is also often cheaper and more efficient than capitalist enterprises for the simple reason that co-ops don’t pay ludicrous salaries and dividends to rich CEOs.34 From Boston to Austin to San Francisco, these alternate forms of economic organization are becoming more and more attractive to people who are tired of capitalism, of inequality, of a form of socio-economic organization whose only fulfilled promises, of the many it makes, seem to be continual unemployment, perpetual war, and rapidly escalating environmental destruction.

Despite all the rhetoric about secularization, we remain deeply theological creatures. Capital, the one true god of the modern world, still plunders and steals, ravages and consumes and destroys. But it need not be so among us. We can repent. We can change course. There is another way. If some Christians think it possible to convert entire continents, and in the last analysis the entire planet, so that every knee might bow before their God, then surely a gradual conversion of capital from autocratic ownership to democratic ownership is not impossible. And indeed, it is already begun to spread. But the Capital and its graven images remain powerful, and the world it creates in its image is still largely the world we live in. But if we would commit ourselves to the spiritual transformation of capital so that it might submerge in its antiquity and emerge in its newness, arise transfigured and transformed, then there is still some hope for us. We proclaim the glory of God.

 

Notes

1 For all their ostensible differences, many of the church’s greatest philosophers and theologians held rather similar views of God. If for Augustine, God is a perfect being, and for Anselm God is the highest and most excellent being, then for Aquinas, God is perfect, highest, most excellent being in itself, pure form, pure actuality. (Brian Morley, ‘Western Concepts of God,’ in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, originally published 12 August 2002, updated 07 July 2005, http://www.iep.utm.edu/ god-west/#SH2b) This is all well and good, but for one minor qualification: it has little or nothing to do with anything in the scriptures, where God is jealous, angry, wrathful. He is corporeal, incarnate, this-worldly, consorts with pimps and whores and tax collectors. But the observation is so obvious I need not point it out.

2 Jacques Derrida, ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, in Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, pp 278-294, accessed online: http://hydra.humanities.uci. edu/derrida/sign-play.html

3 Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author’ reprinted in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, New York: Vintage Books, 2010, p.105

4 Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Louise Colet, 09 December 1852

5 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, excerpted in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer, London: Fontana, 1971, p.188

6 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, excerpted in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer, London: Fontana, 1971, p.189

7 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer, London: Fontana, 1971, p.53 8 Walter Benjamin, ‘Capitalism as Religion,’ trans. Chad Kautzer

9 Harvey Cox, ‘The Market as God,’ The Atlantic, 01 March 1999

10 Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan, London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1904, 5th ed., Book IV, Ch. 2, Section 9, accessed online: http://www.econlib.org/library/ Smith/smWN13.html

11 Paul Samuelson, William Nordhaus, Economics, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989, 13th ed, p.825. To be fair to Samuelson, though he does clearly misrepresent Smith, he does not himself subscribe to the infallibility of the Invisible Hand and is, in fact, rather critical of it.

12 Adam Sanchez, ‘The Education “Shock Doctrine,”’ International Socialist Review, No.71 13 See, for example, Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, New York: Picador, 2007

14 Andrew Gumbel, “Republican-Friendly Bechtel Wins $680m Iraq Contract,” 19 April 2003, The Independent, UK

15 For a general overview of these numerous episodes, I recommend William Blum, Killing Hope, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995. He includes Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, Grenada 1984, Nicaragua 1990, and many, many other examples.

16 Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, New York: Seven Stories Press, 1998, p.27

17 Noam Chomsky, ‘How the World Works,’ Lecture, 1993, online: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=kyk6TTPyaJE 18 See, for instance, Gary Dorrien, Economy, Difference, and Empire, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, p.36. It should be noted that for pragmatic reasons–socialism simply was not a viable political option given the political climate–Niebuhr, in his ‘realism’ later gave up his socialism and opted for a form of progressive liberalism, believing as he did that FDR’s policies and WWII spending had basically solved the problems of capitalism–namely unemployment–or were at least more effective in addressing them than a socialist alternative. The notion that Niebuhr was skeptical of socialism because it wasn’t aware of the radical nature of human sin is a common misconception: Niebuhr’s radical, realist notion of sin made him more, not less, politically radical. For Niebuhr, it was was sentimental liberalism, not socialism, which failed to recognize this. He did fiercely oppose Soviet ‘communism’ but this has, except in name, nothing to do with either Niebuhr’s earlier Marxism or the kind of socialism I am dealing with here.

19 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/4, p. 544, quoted in Ben Meyers, ‘Karl Barth on Capitalism,’ Faith and Theology, 24 November 2006, online: http://www.faith-theology. com/2006/11/karl-barth-on-capitalism.html

20 This observation did not escape John Dewey, for instance, who wrote of WWII: “It is so common to point out the absurdity of conducting a war for political democracy which leaves industrial and economic autocracy practically untouched, that i think we are absolutely bound to see, after the war, either a period of very great unrest … or a movement to instill the principle of self-government within industries.” (John Dewey, ‘Economic Basis of New Society’ in Intelligence in the Modern World, ed. Joseph Ratner, New York: Random House, 1939, p.422)

21 Adolf Hitler, quoted in Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, abridged edition, New York: HarperCollins, 1971, p.102, accessed online: http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-hitler. htm

22 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim, Boston: Mariner Books, 1999

23 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer, London: Fontana, 1971, p.63

24 For a good introduction to economic democracy, I recommend Gary Dorrien’s, Economy, Difference, and Empire, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, Chapter 9: “Rethinking and Renewing Economic Democracy,” pp.168-186

25 David Korten, one of the main theorists of economic democracy today, alternatively suggests that economic democracy be defined as “broad participation int he ownership of productive assets,” which basically amounts to the same thing. (David Korten, Agenda for a New Economy, San Francisco: Berett-Koehler, 2010, p.155

26 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer, London: Fontana, 1971, p.63

27 John Dewey, ‘The Ethics of Democracy,’ Art, Science, and Moral Progress, ed. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, Indianapolis: Hackett, p.63

28 G. William Domhoff, ‘Wealth, Income, and Power,’ Who Rules America?, online: http:// www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/ wealth.html; Gar Alperovitz, ‘If You Don’t Like Capitalism or State Socialism, What Do You Want?,’ E.F. Schumacher Lecture, transcript available online: http://neweconomy.net/publications/ lectures/alperovitz/gar/if-you-dontlike- capitalism-or-state-socialism; In these terms, we fare only slightly better than the Egyptians under Pharaoh, when one percent of the population owned 67% of the wealth.

29 Robert McChesney, Introduction to Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, New York: Seven Stories Press, 1998, p.11

30 Georgia Kelly, ‘The Mondragon Cooperatives: An Inspiring Economic Hybrid,’ Tikkun, Vol.28, No.2, Spring 2013, pp.23-26

31 It has done this by relocating workers to other cooperatives and by job sharing “where people work fewer hours and take a pay cut. In one case, 20 percent of the workforce left their jobs for one year. During that year, they received 80 percent of their pay and could retrain for other types of work (for free) if they wished.” (Ibid., p.25) Bertrand Russell long ago advocated a similar policy in his economic writings in In Praise of Idleness. 32 Ibid., pp.23-25

33 Gary Dorrien, Economy, Difference, and Empire, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, p.170

34 Gar Alperovitz, ‘Everyday Socialism, American- Style, Is Happening Now,’ Truthout, 14 May 2013, available online: http://truth-out.org/ news/item/16353-everyday-socialism-american- style-is-happening-now. This brief but informative article, which I highly recommend, is excerpted from one of Alperovitz’s books.

 

Kelly Maeshiro is a Religion concentrator in Leverett House and is Dean of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture With a View Toward a Critique of Capitalism for the Ichthus.

 

Image by FidlerJan from morguefile.com.

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