By Zack Smith
Jan 11, 2015
How capitalism functions like a religion
Capitalism is not a religion, but there are two broad ways in which it is like a religion.
1. In the ways that it encourages blind belief and discourages critical thinking.
2. In the ways that it molds and influences social and political structures.
An example of how capitalism influences societal structures is that it establishes a kind of caste system in some places, where high-paid corporate workers enjoy a range of benefits and preferential treatment and are treated as valued, but those who work for subcontractors, small businesses or independently are given very little and are treated as undeserving and disposable.
How the services and structures of capitalism resemble those of religions
- Advertisement: In its modern form it appeals to subconscious needs. It is meant to be personally meaningful. In the same way, religious texts are meant to be personally meaningful.
- Shopping is like making a sacrament. While shopping is inevitable in any market system, it is made into something personally meaningful, like an expression of faith in the precept of buying because products always getting better.
- A purchase: It connects a personal meaning to the holy market and expresses faith in the system.
- A purchase: It connects personal needs and is an express of personal aspirations within the system: To be richer, prettier, etc.
- Recycling: While urgently necessary recycling expresses a lack of faith in the system. It is strongly opposed by some but merely ignored by the faithful masses.
- To buy something is to give proof of your life within the capitalist system. Only the dead do not shop. A person without meaning in their life may buy too much.
- Hoarding: This is the accumulation of artifacts each of which has a meaning intimately tied to capitalism.
- Most artifacts are mass-produced.
- Most are plastic.
- Most are cheaply made.
- Most are made overseas.
- The Righteous: Social Darwinism is the moral system of capitalism.
- Those with talents are rewarded.
- Those without talents are punished.
- But it is a false meritocracy because capitalism degenerates to crony capitalism.
- The movie theater: It functions like a church. Its purpose is to instill the values of capitalism.
- The TV: It functions like a private altar. You sacrifice your own life upon it.
- Economists: The (Neoclassical) economists serve as the high priests of capitalism. They may not know their own scripture well (Wealth of Nations etc.) but they preach they gospel of the 1 Percent and guide the larger policies.
- ITM( Economic Hitmen: (As described by John Perkins) These are equivalent to the Christian Crusaders or Muslim Rashidun. Whereas those were armies and pillagers the Economic Hitmen conquer with unpayable debts.)
- Stock brokers: These are akin to the Masons of medieval Europe. They are essential workers doing the work of maintaining the infrastructure of finance.
- Bankers and speculators: Like stock brokers they work on the infrastructure of finance but they are corrosive to the system. They seek to expand their empires. In this way they are akin to caliphates. They operate on a level above mere corporations just as caliphates operate above sects.
- Blasphemy: To share what you own is offensive if not criminal. It is an attack on the system.
- Not quite blasphemy: To give away your labor or possessions is considered crazy.
- A brand is like a sect: You are captured by it.
- You belong to the Apple sect or the Samsung sect.
- Or the Microsoft sect is deem satanic by some.
- Wealth: This is akin to inherent religious righteousness. The rich deserve their abundance.
- Poverty: This is akin to inherent religious unrighteousness. The poor deserve their suffering.
- Shopping malls: They are attended by the faithful (consumers).
- Investment: It is a blessing from above. Your fate and fortunes are tied up in whether you are lucky enough to be so blessed.
- Investment: Those who lack it are forsaken: cut off and doomed. They were judged meritless.
- Investment: A country that lacks foreign investment is deemed poor and pitiful. This justifies eventual military intervention which is disrespectful and akin to forceful religious conversion.
What psychological functions does capitalism-religion support?
Anthropogists struggle with this question: What does religion do for a society? Why do humans bother with it at all?
The same answers to this question are relevant to capitalism.
False hope and meaning
For individuals who are living largely empty lives, working at disheartening jobs so that others can become rich while they remain relatively poor, the lure of capitalism is that anyone can get rich, anyone can own a McMansion, anyone can become
respected i.e. by the myraid fools who equate wealth with importance and substance.
Some proponents of capitalism, it seems, become imbalanced by their greed to become zealots. They suffer from a false belief that capitalist ideology is somehow superior than any other, especially in the jaundiced Wall Street variant, which espouses the notion that
greed is good. But capitalism inevitably degrades to crony capitalism, manifesting corruption at the highest levels, becoming corrosive to democracy and enormously destructive to people and the environment, not unlike Soviet communism.
It is a very rare capitalist who has read Adam Smith, David Ricardo or any other major thinker, nor who truly understands economics. This is in part due to misinformation campaigns and miseducation in the form of Neoclassical economics. This does not stop proponents of capitalism from claiming, as the religious do, that "We have the right information and interpretation, not you".
As with many religious people, proponents of capitalism avoid thinking for themselves, and especially avoid critical thinking. They rely on the
wisdom of others, who in the capitalist system are not priests but rather pundits, CEOs and corporate yes-men who offer a stream of outright lies, easy rationales and illogical thinking that they pass off as respectable opinions and even wisdom.
Proponents of capitalism insist they are morally right, despite plentiful evidence that enormous harm is done by capitalism everyday, which virtually no proponents want to recognize, or seek to remedy, and indeed some vigorously oppose remedies for the wrongs of capitalists, while blaming the victims.
Copyright © 2007, 2013-2014 by Zack Smith.