Capitalism: The Religion?
“A corporation doesn’t need to convert anyone to destroy a person’s spirituality, it only needs to hollow out your spirituality and then sell you back the rotten guts.”
The idea of Capitalism as a religion is nothing new, though recently I heard the sentiment once again expressed. We here at the Patæconomical Institute for Sociological Study do not, cannot, shy away from ideas such as this, and a thorough study followed. Well, a study followed. Much of mundane economics is, as related by the character Shevek in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, “like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream.”
So, a study was undertaken. But no ordinary study, a Patæconomical study, in which we look at Capitalism, in all of its glory, without the human. What we found may astound you. Or it may stound you. It depends on how stoundable you are, I guess.
What exactly defines religion? That is a question which has had many a theologist, sociologist, philosopher, anthropologist, and various other forms of gist, er, and izer up late writing, arguing, and hand wringing over. The almighty G (Google not GOD, not yet at least) is helpfully unhelpful in giving no less than three definitions.
Religion: noun — The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
That seems fair, but also seems limited in scope by the preconceived notions of Abrahamic religions, or at least Mediterranean religions.
Religion: noun — a particular system of faith and worship
This is frustratingly vague.
Religion: noun — a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance. Example: “consumerism is the new religion”
Oh my! That is frustratingly vague as well, despite the confirmation bias baiting example. Almost as if Google knows what I’m writing about…
But anyway, since I am only seeking to establish a common meaning to a word, and not sell anyone on any meaning, I’ll say that when we discuss religion in the Patæconomical sense, we mean to say:
A system of activity, which someone ascribes both belief and importance, which may or may not involve some notion of power or Gods or truth.
Still frustratingly vague, but at least we crammed all that crap into one sentence!
Capitalism certainly seems to have features of a religion, but who actually writes down their religion as “Capitalism” on a census form? I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess vanishingly few, if any. Who then is Capitalism a religion for? Would you believe that it is a religion, but not a religion practiced by humans? If you had read my other article, “What is Patæconomics?” you may have guessed where this is going.
Since Patæconomics is the study of economics minus the human, a study of Capitalism minus the human would have to be the study of a religion of those non-humans. The measuring stick we will use to gauge the effects of the practice of that religion will be the gaping whole left over from our removal of the human to study these matters. The human element therefore remains invisibly visible. Or visibly invisible?
According to Marx, Capitalism gets over the crises of over-production by enforced mass destruction of creative forces, or by conquering new markets (or more creatively exploiting old markets). Joseph Schumpeter later elaborated the concept and made it central to his concept of “creative destruction”, the foundation of his economic theory which became the “Austrian School” of free-market thought.
Patæconomicly, it is not enough simply to point out the self-destructive nature of Capitalism, and either admire/condemn or admire/admire the creative destruction of Capitalism as Marx and Schumpeter do, respectively. We must look to the Patæconomic reason for this, not in the context of dialectical materialism or free market thought, but as the activity of a religion made to serve the vampire spirits we know as corporations. Certainly, this activity of destruction or new market conquering allows for a glut of money (crystalized time, or blood if you like).
It is not enough that corporations exact a certain amount of loyalty from their employee/consumers. The engagement from the humans that corporations feed from must be total. The war is then against all non-human entities that could possibly distract from (or allow for escape from) the employee-consumer lifestyle. Do not mistake things like television or movies for such distractions or escape. That type of escapism is actually part of the employee-consumer lifestyle. On rare occasions, you may actually get a piece of Art snuck in there, but the damage is minimal and already accounted for.
What I then mean as escape or distraction is contact with the spiritual (or otherworld, or astral, whatever you prefer to call it). A human being who has had a genuine encounter with spirit, if not immediately freed of his gilded cage, is well on the way to picking the lock. This is why virgin forests are cut down even though recycling and forest farms are things that exist. This is why pipelines that can be easily diverted from sacred sites are instead planned right through the area.
It is also why spirituality is being carved up and sold wholesale. Every human, unless they are dead inside, has this yearning to contact the spiritual. Understanding this, Capitalism aims not only to cut off this avenue of escape, but in true corporate fashion, to use it to its advantage. By selling spiritual knock offs cheap and easy, it both cuts humanity off from spirituality and distracts with something that seems spiritual, but only feeds our diminished ego in the same way every other product produced by a corporation does. The search for spirituality that is conducted under the auspices of consumerism is the never ending search for peak experiences that add to the ego’s relenteless self-fellating narrative. The new territory, the new market, that the true servants of Capitalism the Religion mean to conquer, is the spiritual. And the battle is and has been well underway.
In these periods of market demolition or expansion, the powerless are always the first to suffer. You’ve seen the first blows of this war already delivered. One manifestation of spiritual consumerism is known well enough as “cultural appropriation.” But, being as many radicals are staunch materialists, they take the apparent at face value, and only see this on the spectrum of race relations. And though “cultural appropriation” does have that element to it, it at the same time exists in the context of spiritual consumerism.
Spiritual consumerism is not only a threat to minorities, it endangers everyone. Even if you manage 100% to avoid willfully engaging in cultural appropriation, you may have fallen victim to spiritual consumerism. Cultural appropriation by dint of it being a matter of race is bad enough. But cultural appropriation does not just hurt those whose culture is stolen, shredded, and sold to the spiritually hungry. Those who partake of the spiritual that has been profaned in such a manner also suffer a grievous blow.
Yes, to engage in cultural appropriation, or any other form of spiritual consumerism, is to engage in self-harm! To become poisoned, one need only eat poison! When things of the spirit world: songs, dances, rites, prayers, etc. are turned into consumer goods (or outright stolen by the spiritually hungry), something private, personal and spiritual is turned into something material, mass produced, and very public. Not public in the manner that some personal interaction with a public rite is public, and yet also very personal, but public in the ego feeding Facebook way.
Public in a way that feeds the narcissism and disconnection required to perpetuate the employee/consumer lifestyle, “Oh, look at all the pictures of me at the crystal chakra alignment and sweat lodge spirit animal quest workshop that I went to! It only cost me 999.99 USD, and I got this cool medicine pouch with an AUTHENTIC amethyst! LOOK AT ME AND HOW SPIRITUAL I AM!”…public like that.
The confusion and argument over cultural appropriation, what it exactly is and where one draws the line, is then understandable. It was not being analyzed by those who are conscious of the spiritual, nor was it being examined in this larger context. It was a topic of examination and discussion for intellectuals analyzing and experiencing it third hand. But spiritual consumerism doesn’t stop with cultural appropriation and may even come in forms not readily identifiable in their outward appearance.
The most powerful shamans of Australia’s aboriginal tribes are initiated by the spirits of the dream time themselves. The spirits will put him to sleep, and perform a surgery on him, in which their old organs are removed, and new organs, as well as stones that convey power unto the shaman, are implanted. The shaman is then lead back to his people, and after a few days of light craziness, will begin training with other shamans. The use of objects implanted or worn to convey power of some kind exist the world over, and is a feature of many of mankind’s encounters with the spiritual.
Gwyneth Paltrow wants you to put jade eggs in your pussy. Assuming of course you have one. If you are not fortunate enough to have a pussy, and instead have your gonads on the outside, do not worry! I’m sure there is soon to be a jade cock ring coming your way. Anyway, according to GP’s website GOOP,
Yoni eggs, once the strictly guarded secret of Chinese concubines and royalty in antiquity, harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice. Jade eggs’ power to cleanse and clear make them ideal for detox, too.
“This particular jade, nephrite jade, has incredible clearing, cleansing powers,” says Shiva Rose; “It’s a dark, deep green and heavy — it’s a great stone for taking away negativity — and it’s definitely the one to start with.”
Now, I am no one to tell you that you can’t put things in your pussy. You can do what you want. But you don’t have to pay 66.00 USD for the experience (Eris why not 666.00 USD for fucks sake!?). Also there’s a risk of toxic shock and infections, but like I said, you’re an adult, you do what you want. But if you are going to risk infection and death, at least don’t pay some corporate vampire for the privilege.
Kale chips taste like punishment. In fact, there is a lot of food out there nowadays that my wife categorizes as “punishment food.” Eating it tastes like punishment. The eating of food otherwise avoided is nothing new. The Jewish people eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as a remembrance. Certain Tibetan rituals involve long life pills that, I can tell you, don’t taste great. Some religions have observance through the avoidance of food. The idea of food connecting you to the spiritual, either by ingestion or avoidance, is as old as religion itself.
It is this connection to the idea of food = spirit, or food = purity, et cetera that give health (punishment) food and crash diets (punishment fast) their appeal and continued commercial success. One need only examine the terminology used in speaking of diets or health food or “unhealthy” food to see this connection at work. What was once a spiritual ideal, that one ate certain things or avoided eating certain things to embody, is now the ideal of the “perfect body”, as defined by the current consumer fad (but usually always some variation of skinny/muscular).
Of course this is part of the war of conquest of the spiritual being waged. To fear something used the world over, by every culture, to connect us to the spiritual, as a way to alienate us from the spiritual, and our food, and our own bodies, is a fell blow.
I could go on at length in all the ways that the human need to connect with the spiritual is exploited, turned against itself by the faithful of Capitalism. I shouldn’t have to. Now that I’ve told you about it, you’ll start seeing it more and more. Corporations instinctively know that the jig is up if you connect with the spiritual, and have been actively waging a holy war on spirituality, at behest of their god, for as long as corporations have existed.
Even the word, “spirituality,” is now so tainted that it sets eyes rolling when someone uses it as an adjective or description for themselves. A corporation doesn’t need to convert anyone to destroy a person’s spirituality, it only needs to hollow out your spirituality and then sell you back the rotten guts. As radicals, revolutionaries, and as people of the spirit, it is time for us to take back what is rightfully ours.
Some of you already have, some of you are on the way, and for those of you newly awakened who now see this threat for what it is, your fight starts now! The Invisible hand of Adam Smith, the fell god of these vampires, is at your throat! Fight damn you! Fight!
A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.
Check out our books, including Christopher Scott Thompson’s latest, Pagan Anarchism.