Saturday, 22 November 2008

More on money

I woke up this morning with rather surprising thoughts going through my head about why, even in the current financial crisis, unbridled free-market capitalism is so rarely identified and criticised as an ideology. Perhaps we all feel we have a stake in it, and are too busy buying things and thinking about buying things to be creative enough to come up with alternatives. Of course saying "we" in that way is actually ridiculous - there are milions, billions even, who pay for this system with lives lived in unremitting and degrading poverty.

Then I came across this post by Scott Stephens on Faith and Theology. Scott ends his post with these challenging questions and convictions:
While we hope and pray that those in positions of influence will find a just and effective response to the current credit contraction, should we not also reflect on our own indulgence in the greed and uncontrolled lifestyles that have brought us to this point? Shouldn’t we hope that out of this comes a rediscovery of a keen sense of the common good, and of new forms of community that nurture the virtues that have long since seemed to disappear from our society?
The onus, then, is on the church – not merely to pray in some benign way that God would mollify the effects of this financial crisis, but really to constitute that alternate form of community. To give the formation of Christian virtue and Christlike generosity priority over misguided “stewardship” (which so often is ecclesiastical code for white-knuckled miserliness). To have the courage to tell our congregations that participation in the Body of Christ means wanting less, using less, wasting less, so that we can distribute more. To embrace those sacramental resources that have been entrusted to us to keep us faithful to our calling, and which themselves enact a radically different kind of economics to that of corpulent capitalism.

There are also some good insights in the comments on the post which are also well worth reading. Here are extracts from just two.
This from Drew Tatusko's comment:
I am reading Brink Lindsey's book
The Age of Abundance. There the primary argument focuses around the shift in free market economies from producing subsistence needs to producing desire. When we live in a corporate culture that produces desire, it creates inequities and political fractures that are ideological in nature.

And this from Kim Fabricius:
We are theologically spoiled for choice for reasons to reject capitalism as incompatible with Christian faith. D. Stephen Long summarises three of them: "Gutiérrez's opposition to capitalism rests on a social-scientific analysis of reality. Milbank anathematizes capitalist exchanges because of the heretical positions that give rise to them and which they perpetuate. MacIntyre opposes capitalism because of its historical performance when measured against the norms of faithful practice." Drew refers to Lindsey's (presumably) Augustinian critique of capitalism as an engine of the libido dominandi (I haven't read the book). McCabe enlists the support of Aquinas in pillorying capitalism's intrinsic indifference to the common good. As a pacifist, I'd put it like this: capitalism is the continuation of war by other means.

So why not add your reflections and creative ideas. Has the ideology of capitalism really been broken by the cross of Christ, is a new theology of money and economics beginning to emerge, who controls that theological debate, what space do we allow for theological models from the developing world?