Capitalism as a Religion

Born-Again Capitalism (Part 1)

To imply capitalism is a religion verges on cynicism. The term religion connotes a belief system that intends to purify the physical existence in preparation for the spiritual realm. By that interpretation, religion is a guide on the transcendental path away from selfish motivations toward spiritual enlightenment. Since the success of capitalism is dependent on selfish motivation (a.k.a., entrepreneurial spirit), capitalism should be the antithesis of religion. However, membership in institutionalized religion is not necessarily the same as a quest for spiritual enlightenment. Some may see institutionalized religion more as a ruse for establishing hierarchal order in the earthly realm. By that interpretation, capitalism may fall into the category of religion.

Capitalism is akin to institutionalized religion in that a major objective of “institutionalized capitalism” is to structure the perception of the world and justify the social hierarchies of a class system. A belief in capitalism generates absolution for selfish desires that create an uneven distribution of resources. Capitalism maintains an expiatory quality that allows for a freeing of the guilt associated with even the slightest responsibility for the inequalities of society. Institutionalized capitalism shapes that mindset. Like an ever present invisible hand, free markets are omnipotent in their justification and determination of social structures including systemic dominance and systemic inequalities.

Currency is communion, profit the deity to worship, and for the devout capitalist there is a promise of heaven on earth.

Brian J. English

Whether amusing metaphor or topic for bar-stool debate, institutionalized capitalism and institutionalized religion have commonalities:  

  • Wars have been fought for both.
  • Both seek to give hope (false hope?) to the poor.
  • Both have been bedfellows with systems of government.
  • Both rely on marketing tactics to survive.
  • The marketing tactics that are used by both are intentionally deceptive.
  • Propaganda has been essential to establish institutional dominance.
  • Both assume the authority to modify the world-view of their followers.
  • Both intend to structure the perception and thinking of the world.
  • Both are hegemonic systems in which the dominant culture intends to maintain its dominant position.

Go to Born-Again Capitalism (Part 2)

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