Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Distortions of human nature that can lead individuals and societies astray

In his new book "Consumed," the political scientist Benjamin Barber observes that a society organized around the values of consumer capitalism can become materially rich but spiritually and morally poor. This is the standard religious critique of consumer capitalism, and it does not follow that poverty and want make one virtuous. Where I think Barber makes a real contribution to the current discussion is his argument that the materialism of late capitalism undermines the virtues necessary to make capitalism sustainable. That is, capitalism (which he favors, as do we all, yes?) is an unparalled success at improving the material conditions of society, but it did so only within the framework of the virtues, in particular the ascetic conviction that gratification of desire should be delayed for a higher end.
But today, people are acculturated toward the consumerist ideal that if you want it, you should have it right this very instant. The people -- the freely choosing people -- tend, then, to lose an appreciation for the difference between what they want, and what they need. Hence a nation and a booming economy built on massive indebtedness. Hence a society in which the idea of objective truth is losing its coherence, as "truth" becomes a matter of what you choose to believe -- a "fact" or a standard that "works" for you, not an objective principle around which one organizes individual and common life.
I stand with Pope Benedict, who criticized both Marxism and consumer capitalism as distortions of human nature that can lead individuals and societies astray from their proper ends. The problem facing tradcons in this society is that absent a commonly shared religious sense to both instruct and bind us, there can be no agreement on "proper ends," and thus a libertarian social order may be the only real alternative to preventing the hostile state from transgressing what tradcons see as its boundaries. On the other hand, a libertarian social order tends to leave us unprotected against the depredations of big business, as under our legal order, businesses are seen as akin to persons.
Not sure where all this ends up, though as you know, MacIntyre believes that it will all fall apart because there is no center to hold it together. I do wish, modestly, that conservative Christians would wake up and realize how consumer capitalism and its values undermine what we profess to believe in. You cannot be a conservative, especially a Christian conservative, and view the free market uncritically. posted by Crunchy Con @ 7:27 AM Permalink Comments (5) Add to Del.icio.us Digg This Fave on Technorati

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