Well folks, it’s that time of year again! That’s right, as capitalism has emerged as the new global religion Black Friday has become its high holy day of the year! Every shopping center is turned into a little Mecca as thousands of people come together, single-mindedly focused, completely ignoring each other, streaming into their favorite temples of consumerism to find those highly desired and precious commodities that promise to bring satisfaction and fulfillment!
In the wake of the death of Rene Girard I have been studying up on the man and his legacy and I am seeing how his anthropological insights impact so many different aspects of society. Essentially Girard argued that Christianity, as the great anti-religion, laid the groundwork for a secular world and for global capitalism to rise up. The temporary fleshly benefits of “increased living standards” have been great, yet the spiritual price that we continue to pay remains completely underestimated and largely unnoticed.
As I write in my original Zombie essay,
“The way of life that has taken over and reigns supreme throughout the world today is the way of life that is dictated by the global marketplace. Everywhere some form of Capitalism reigns supreme (although with various levels of government regulation and different policies of taxation and re-distribution). Fundamentally, Capitalism is a way of life based on competition, consumerism and covetousness. It is a way of life in which everything has been turned into a marketable commodity, including labor, culture, sex, and even land and the earth itself. It is a way of life in which money has become necessary for just about everything, and almost all of our human relationships are mediated by cash transactions or self-serving voluntary exchanges. In fact, what many promoters of Capitalism have referred to as the “magic of the marketplace” is at the same time the primary reason why we have seen the decline of love throughout the world over the last few hundred years at the same time that we have witnessed the explosive rise in commerce.”
Girard views religion as the original force established in human society to limit human violence. Religion, politics, law, they all have their root in violence and coercion. When Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for all, His teachings and his own unique example established the anti-religion and threw the veil off of all of mankind’s hidden violent traditions. Yes, non-violence is the essential core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus!
Over time archaic religion was beaten back by Christianity. One of the side-effects of this was the rise of secularism, and now Capitalism has replaced primitive religion as humanity’s unifying force, both of which are enemies of authentic Christianity. But just like primitive religion, global capitalism is built around a hidden heart of violence.
Every time a human society experiences a unity of desires the inevitable result is violence. Mimetic (immitative) desire leads to mimetic rivalry and competition, and then finally to mimetic violence. (For a brief overview of mimetic theory check out “The unlikely Christianity of Rene Girard”).
Global capitalism has thrown open the gates of HUMAN DESIRE! Unfortunately rivalry and then violence is sure to follow. We are merely waiting for the right crisis. Violence will erupt globally and then billions of voices will beg for more law and order and in this way we will give birth to the global police state.
I know this sounds extreme, but allow one of Girard’s academic colleagues to explain how capitalism, which claims to subdue violence and bring peace (just as ancient religion did), paradoxically lays the foundation for greater violence down the road:
“Economy nevertheless persists in seeing itself as the antidote to the very poison that it distills. There is no plainer statement of this opinion than the panegyric to the market composed by Milton Friedman: “Adam Smith’s flash of genius was his recognition that the prices that emerged from voluntary transactions between buyers and sellers–for short, in a free market–could coordinate the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off…. The price system is the mechanism that performs this task without central direction, without requiring people to speak to one another or to like one another.” This bizarre utopia–a society in which people have no need of friendship, or even of conversation, in order to live in peace with one another, in which mutual indifference and solipsistic amusements are the surest guarantee of the common good–is so monstrous that it could have been conceived, and, what is more, could have only been taken seriously by a great many brilliant minds, for a very compelling reason. The reason, I believe, is this…”
That was philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy in his book Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith (location 700, kindle edition, 2014). You can read his book to find out the point he is about to make, or you can read my essay: The Zombie Apocalypse and the Decline of Love.