Saturday, August 10, 2013

Postmetaphysical spirituality and postcapitalism

From my last two posts in the IPS anti-capitalism thread, hearkening back to a paper by Arnsperger called "Never quite enough" on the relation of spirituality to economics (with my emphasis). This is where the rubber of religion meets the redemptive road to daily bread:

"Existential economics....led to me into this—somewhat iconoclastic— anchoring within what, roughly, we might call Christian humanism, a way of doing philosophy that accepts that anthropological reflection need not (and, in fact, cannot) be disconnected from radical reflection on religious and spiritual issues.

"Don’t expect me to draw...a well-meaning denunciation of economic materialism in the name of 'spirituality.' If I did that, I’d be ignoring the very roots of modern economic thought. In reality, in fact, the great thinkers of economics were working very consciously for the salvation of humanity.... I think we need to go as far as saying that economic thought has a strictly spiritual root.... The economy is, therefore, less a technical-operational domain than an existential-spiritual one.... Economics, therefore, the science of the economy, is part and parcel of theology—not only neo-liberal economics (as some left-wing critics claim, using the word 'theology' as a degrading term), but all of economics to the extent that it ultimately seeks to liberate Man. Marx, Keynes, and Hayek were, literally, the most influential theologians of the 20th century; I say this not by analogy or as an image, but as a literal description of what their study of economic activity was about."

In the following excerpts from section 3, "towards post-capitalist existence," he tends to see pre-capitalist 3rd world religions as a key. Granted we can learn to re-focus on spirituality from them but he accepts some of their metaphysical postulates like actual immortality. We can accept the former without the later and have their and our spiritualities go post-metaphysical, as well as our economies going post-capitalist.

"The 'miracle' of capitalist economies is that they have generated immense collective opulence—but the downside of the miracle is that this huge wealth is distributed much more unequally than the very small surplus of pre-capitalist tribes and villages. Why? Because capitalism functions on what I call imaginary scarcity : what makes accumulation, competition, and consumption 'work' is the fact that each of us somehow feels he never has enough. Wanting to get more just deepens the feeling of 'never quite enough.' This process is never-ending; it never exhausts itself; more not being enough, it calls for even more, and this creates growth and the need for growth to create existential reassurance. The core functioning of capitalism is based on existential anxiety and fear.

"Now, real scarcity could, in principle, be eliminated through a form of egalitarian capitalism. You could try to 'channel' the dynamism and incentives of capitalism into a system where we produce, distribute, and consume (and even 'exploit' each other, which is inevitable whenever there is division of labor)—a system that would establish one single barrier to capitalist rationality: everyone should be protected from real scarcity, so that there should be massive and constant redistribution. But alas, egalitarian capitalism is an unstable creation; when you establish it (as did the promoters of social democracy in the mid-20th century), it gets attacked from all sides by those who have no interest in it. Why? Simply because capitalism and equality are like oil and water: you can mix them up vigorously, but if you don’t coerce them into staying mixed they will separate again. The basic reason is that egalitarian capitalism eliminates real scarcity but is incompatible with imaginary scarcity.

"To reach a truly post-capitalist existence on a scale today attained by capitalism, the road will be long and hard. [...] The most crucial thing is to foster a culture in which we relate to our existential anxiety through means other than 'psychosomatic wealth.' The other crucial thing is that we shouldn’t count just on need and fear to coerce us into solidarity. Thus, in a truly post-capitalist world, human beings should be free from both real and imaginary scarcity. The idea that constantly growing aggregate wealth can be stimulated only through relative poverty—an idea that lies at the heart of capitalist market incentives—has to be replaced with the idea that moderate wealth can be maintained through relational and social investment.

"As I said at the beginning, the triadic body-mind-spirit Man has survived more in the Third World, sheltered by remnants of pre-modern tradition and by ... yes, poverty. This is no excuse for those countries remaining in their state of material poverty, but neither is it an excuse for the rich countries to consider they have nothing to learn from the materially poor. What the Third-World traditions are still rich in, and what we tend to have become very poor in, is spiritual resources to deal with existential anxiety in 'adjusted' ways [...] Spiritual resources would allow us to see things differently, and to live differently, giving economic wealth production its rightful—and relatively minor —place and giving relational and social investment the priority."

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