"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, April 16, 2018

Capitalistic Colonizing of the Christian Mind

Patrick Deneen's new book has been attracting a lot of attention as have other authors in the past few years who cheer the rise of an anti-liberal movement and speculate on what might replace it. But the problems with such exercises are very serious indeed. Alasdair MacIntyre himself is perhaps aware of those problems more than just about anybody else, and because of that is extremely reluctant blithely to prescribe solutions even after thinking about these issues for more than half a century. But the great man's reticence has not at all stopped those rushing to bury modern liberalism with puerile glee (e.g., some pamphleteer called Rod Dreher) even as they have not the slightest interest in the hard work of coming up with answers as to what we do in the chaotic aftermath--never mind in the much longer term. This essay disabuses such people of their apocalypticism on the cheap, and is worth your time, not least for insights such as this: "Liberal capitalism concludes with a march of destruction through the human psyche itself."

The author's point is born out by several recent and important books, some previously noted on here under the suspect category of "spirituality," which, as I have remarked elsewhere, doesn't exist until and unless you have a market economy interested in such a thing, at which point it becomes just another commodity.

Other books showing the colonizing of the mind by capitalism must include the deeply rewarding work of Todd McGowan, whom I discussed here in detail. He is also the author of Capitalism and Desire: the Psychic Cost of Free Markets, which I have ordered and hope to begin reading as soon as the semester is over. 

Bruce Rogers-Vaughn's Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age, published in late 2016, is a very useful attempt to look at the problems of capitalism through the seasoned eyes of a minister and therapist steeped in pastoral theology and aware of the practical and psychological issues among the people he works with and their very real and increasing suffering.

J. Carrette and R. King are the authors of Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion which is useful in showing how popular appeals to "Buddhism" and "mindfulness" have been little more than capitalist projects in disguise.

Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power  by Byung-Chul Han was released last Christmas, and is on my list to read, as is the forthcoming book by Benjamin Fong, Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism.

About the former book the publisher tells us this:
Byung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of neoliberal psychopolitics fueling our contemporary crisis of freedom, Han elaborates an analytical framework that provides an original theory of Big Data and a lucid phenomenology of emotion. But this provocative essay proposes counter models too, presenting a wealth of ideas and surprising alternatives at every turn.
And about the latter we are told the following by the publisher:

The first philosophers of the Frankfurt School famously turned to the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud to supplement their Marxist analyses of ideological subjectification. Since the collapse of their proposed "marriage of Marx and Freud," psychology and social theory have grown apart to the impoverishment of both. Returning to this union, Benjamin Y. Fong reconstructs the psychoanalytic "foundation stone" of critical theory in an effort to once again think together the possibility of psychic and social transformation.
Drawing on the work of Hans Loewald and Jacques Lacan, Fong complicates the famous antagonism between Eros and the death drive in reference to a third term: the woefully undertheorized drive to mastery. Rejuvenating Freudian metapsychology through the lens of this pivotal concept, he then provides fresh perspective on Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse's critiques of psychic life under the influence of modern cultural and technological change. The result is a novel vision of critical theory that rearticulates the nature of subjection in late capitalism and renews an old project of resistance.

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