Capitalism and Religion- Introduction
June 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
As weird as this comparison felt to me when I heard this for the first time, I was forced to think on it. Having felt convinced on the first-time talk basis, I couldn’t let myself be influenced by someone’s words so easily unless I analysed it myself. This subject is a major challenge for me, and my preparations were an intellectual adventure of unforeseen proportions. I am neither an expert on moral theology or social philosophy nor Capitalism. But my curiosity got the better of me and led me to explore a comparison which arose out of an interview conversation.
When we compare capitalism and religion, a dictionary definition will suffice for direct correlation. But when we start with capitalism we discover, that there are very different approaches to the subject and that it can be defined in different ways. Maybe there is more than just one variety of capitalism. The same holds true for religion.
Capitalism : an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
Religion : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
Both concepts have no difference when carefully observed. Both are institutions governed by either an individual or a group of individuals. These definitions cause no mayhem. When has written word ever caused issues anyway.
Is Capitalism the root cause of all evil?
There is no such thing as “the” economy or capitalism as a monolithic concept.They are vitriolic constructs to prevent them from being further studied and understood ( whether to attack or support is a thing for further consideration).Money, as an institution exists, it is an ingenious invention, on a par with the wheel, language or writing. If someone describes it only as the source of all greed, then he must be able to offer functional alternatives.The state as an institution exists, also a human accomplishment (which is possibly overvalued, by the way). But an institution called “the economy” does not exist. Economy as a component of culture is a highly complex process by which needs are satisfied through exchange and division of labour. The notion that “the economy” or “the world economy” can be “manipulated” by a couple of superpowers, is based on a dangerously naïve overestimation of how controllable highly complex phenomena are. Shimmering through this belief is the expectation that all you need to do is replace these greedy powers with a reasonable, intelligent management crew , and presto! the planet would be saved and all evils vanquished.
My own approach to capitalism is that it is the essence of private property and open markets for products, finance and labour. Capitalism is what happens, when you open these opportunities by removing the institutional obstacles. Capitalism has not to be organized by a central political power. And Capitalism tends to globalisation but it creates absolutely no need for a global government.
Is Capitalism just the opposite of Socialism or are, — from a religious point of view — , both ideologies just the two materialistic and rationalist errors of the 19th century — not so far away one from each other? This is my answer: Capitalism is not an ideology, nor a dogma that is to be believed or not. Capitalism is just what happens in world that has invented or discovered money, credit and the division of labour, when you stop to intervene by governmental coercion.
It’s not a question of one ideology prevailing over another, nor is it a question of loyalty, but rather a question of empirical plausibility, whose answer is based on empirically verifiable facts and longer-term comparisons of orders. Which principle (“System” is too static to be used) leads to greater prosperity, also for the poor, and to greater progress in measurable criteria (infant mortality, life expectancy)? Which territorial authorities, using which regulatory models, have generated pressure to emigrate? And which have generated pressure to immigrate (voting with one’s feet)?
Capitalism and love
Majority assumption lead us to believe that capitalism and love are opposite concepts. Do you believe in love? This question is probably the most important ( and most futile, as well) question of a person’s life as your happiness depends on the answer you find.
Similarly, do you believe in market? Answer to this depends on one’s capability, skills and talent. An extremely personal question challenging one’s ego.
Most people believe in love to be ‘happening’ all the time independent of how he/she is. But love is far from this. To gain love, one must deserve it. The issue today is in our criteria of becoming deserving of love. The way to deserve love is to give it not for the sake of any return but for the sake of loving itself. This is what each religion tries to achieve. While finding a common ground between the two ideas, I came across a quote by Aristotle “Unity and harmony among things and people who are different can be achieved only by maintaining their diversity and singularity.” Every religion has the following three aspects covered: Personalism, subsidiarity and solidarity. In the further posts, these 3 aspects will be further looked into.
Being raised a Hindu, I have maximum exposure to this religion. Hence my basis of comparison will be between Hinduism and Capitalism. But I can safely assume the following aspects to be applicable to all religions.