Posted by: Dan | November 17, 2007

The Church and Capitalism: Part I.1 (cont.)

On Partisanship: The View across the Barricades

At this stage, it is important to comment on partisanship. It has already been asserted that neoclassicism is partisan, in that it favours the few over the many.[17] This assertion directly contradicts the claims that neoclassicism benefits everyone and favours no one.[18] However, in actuality, the neoclassical vision coincides precisely with the interests of large multinationals and turns the wealthy into the super-rich, and the working class into the disposable poor.[19] Herein one discovers an economic order premised upon looting, full of winners and losers, victors and victims.[20] To this, neoclassicists often respond with some variant of the ‘trickle-down’ argument, but this is essentially giving the poor (i.e. the ‘losers’) the option of trading one form of misery for another.[21] Consequently, one quickly learns that the partisanship of neoclassicism results in “[the] freedom of the powerful to rob, and [the] freedom of the dispossessed to live in misery.”[22]

However, it is essential to realize that Christianity is also partisan – but in the opposite direction. Neoclassicism favours the rich while plundering the poor, but Christianity advances God’s ‘preferential option for the poor’.[23] Consequently, Christians and neoclassicists end up opposed to one another. Here one must realize that partisanship and objectivity are not rivals but allies, because, as Terry Eagleton notes, “true judiciousness means taking sides.”[24] Christians side with the poor and against those who oppress them, precisely because the poor suffer unjustly. For this reason, Christians must abandon the myth that, in order to maintain one’s perspective, one should not take sides.[25] Maintaining perspective means taking sides.

This, then, has implications for the methodology employed by those Christians who seek to write in response to neoclassicism today. First of all, it is important to recall, and dialogue with, the witness of Christians who have come together and written from such partisan places.[26] Secondly, this means that Christians should also listen to other subversive voices – to revolutionaries, (post-)Marxists, and others who end up on the “same side of the barricades.”[27] For, as Eagleton notes: “Marxist ideas have stubbornly outlived Marxist political practice… We do not dismiss, say, feminist criticism just because patriarchy has not yet been dislodged. On the contrary, it is all the more reason to embrace it.”[28] Thirdly, it means that Christians should write from a place of embodied partisanship. A Christian theology that responds to neoclassicism must follow from action, it must be “critical reflection on Christian praxis.”[29]

Therefore, because Christians hold contradictory allegiances to those held by neoclassicists, one should expect Christians to offer another way of structuring life together, a way that opposes the fascist-imperialist structures imposed by neoclassicism.
____________
[17] That such partisanship is often overlooked in public discourse should come as no surprise once one comes to understand that all the (significant) communication media are owned by the same oligarchies that benefit from the partisanship of the system; cf. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), xi, 298-303; Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 8.
[18] Cf. Hayek, xi-xiv, 262; Friedman, 5-6.
[19] Cf. Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 66, 101, 534. This point has also been explored by many others; cf. Chomsky, Profit Over People, 34; Jon Sobrino, Where is God? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope, trans. by Margaret Wilde (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2004), 99; Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion: Recovering the Gospel for These Times (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981), 45-46; Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, trans. by Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1973), 84; Barber, 28; William Cavanaugh, “The Unfreedom of the Free Market,” in Wealth, Poverty & Human Destiny, ed. Doug Bandow and David L. Schindler (Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2003), 103-28. Accessed 3 November 2007. Online: http://www.jesusradicals.com/library/cavanaugh/unfreedom.pdf.
[20] On an economics of looting, cf. Wallis, 42. This is especially evident in the recent Bush administration wherein those in power refused to divest stock holdings that were directly impacted by their roles in office (an illegal act): Rumsfeld kept his shares in Gilead Science, Cheney, his shares in Halliburton (while his wife held shares in Lockheed-Martin), Perle, his shares in Trireme Partners, Baker his shares in Carlyle Group and Baker Botts, Schulz, his shares in Brechtel (Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 377-84). Some would take this to be evidence of a State-imposed imperialism, but it is better understood as evidence of the neoclassical conquest of the State.
[21] For example, multinationals have argued that sweatshops in the two-thirds world provide women and children the opportunity to escape from prostitution – often considered the only other job alternative. Of course, working long hours within a sweatshop, and breaking one’s own body for less than a living wage, is hardly a true alternative – it is simply another form of misery and prostitution. It should be noted that this argument emerged with capitalism itself, as Adam Smith argued that it would be a ‘philanthropic gesture’ to allow poor children to work in factories (cf. Heilbroner, 45).
[22] Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Our Word is our Weapon: Selected Writings, ed. By Juana Ponce de Leon (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001), 65.
[23] A point first made by Latin American liberation theologians, and now widely accepted within global Christianity. Cf. Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, trans. by Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), xii, 75; The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions, trans. by Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 101-102.
[24] After Theory (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 137; cf. 131-37.
[25] As Walter Brueggemann notes, it is the powers-that-be that benefit from those who “understand both sides” (The Prophetic Imagination [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1978], 24-25). Consequently, it is for this reason that Donald A. Hay’s advice that “Christians should be particularly circumspect in their policy prescriptions, and cheerfully tolerant of other Christians who take different lines” is so misguided (Economics Today: A Christian Critique [Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1989], 312; emphasis added).
[26] One thinks, for example, of the witness that came out of an illegal ‘Confessing Church’ Seminary at Finkenwalde, Germany, during WWII – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, trans. by John W. Doberstein (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1954). A second example would be the writings of the liberation theologians, and a third example would be the writings that came out of the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C. – Wallis’ Call to Conversion.
[27] The reference is to a comment made by Zizek on the relationship between Christians and Marxists (The Fragile Absolute, 2). Moltmann’s comments on Ernst Bloch, a Marxist atheist, are significant in this regard. He writes: “God’s defenders are not necessarily closer to God than God’s accusers. It is not Job’s theological friends who are justified, but Job himself. In the Psalms, protest and jubilation ring out in the same voice. Wherever in history [that] combination ceased to work, the theologians would learn as much about God from atheists as the atheists could perhaps learn from the theologians” (Ernst Bloch, Man on His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, with an introduction by Jurgen Moltmann, trans. by E. B. Ashton (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971), 28.
[28] Marxism and Literary Criticism, Routledge Classics (New York: Routledge, 1976), viii-ix. Of course, as noted above, this does not mean that Christians should wholeheartedly accept the Marxist agenda.
[29] This is the definition of liberation theology’s methodology (Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, 11-13; cf. On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent, trans. by Matthew J. O’Connell [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1987], 103).

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