Friday Roundup

  • It is “both/and”, not, “either/or”
  • The logic and cultural environment created by late modern capitalism linked to a narrative of naturalistic materialism…
  • This is what happens when one confuses the narrative he inhabits with “science” or just the “facts”…
  • Worth watching…and listening…
  • One cannot understand modern western economicsunless one understands theology and history…

“One cannot then account for the emergence of capitalism simply in terms of industrial and communicative progress, or even in terms of the expansion of the monetary economy. And here both liberals and Marxists are often equally guilty of simply not historicising enough, and not seeing the sheer contingency of the eventual Western development. For it is certainly not the case that the West was the first to get to capitalism, as if everybody was bound to get there in the end. The issue is far rather, how on earth did the West come to bend urban, technological and economic development in a capitalist direction? 

Here I would argue that the High-Church Anglican and socialist historian R.H. Tawney was after all essentially right: the process has to do with religion – with Christianity and late medieval and early modern developments within Christian theology and practice. It was Tawney rather than Weber (whom Tawney had not read before he developed his own thesis about Protestantism and Capitalism, though the issue is broader than this conjunction) because the German agnostic sociologist focused too narrowly on Puritan psychology, whereas the Tawney focussed on an entire reconstruction of theological anthropology and the doctrines of creation and salvation.
In keeping with, but in considerable extension of Tawney, one can say that Protestant theology inherited and developed a dis-connection of reality – a nominalist denial that all effects analogically echo their causes in a great chain of being leading back to God. In consequence, for this analogical and participatory vision we live in a naturally just cosmos where all eventually returns to its source and in due measure. Crucially, subjects and objects both belong in this single continuum, such that if things also unconsciously praise their maker, subjects also have their natural and objective place in a given cultural order, however variously this may be construed with legitimate cultural variation. The cosmos is an organism, suffused with life in various degrees.

It was not, as is frequently supposed, scientific and critical objectivity, but rather a misguided and priggish pietism, informed by a poor reading of the Bible, which saw in this inherited assumption an excessive paganism, and wished rather to celebrate an entirely inscrutable, self-willed God who has created the world as an arbitrary set of disconnected things, linked only by mechanism. Human beings are then thought to operate on this natural order, no longer in the first place with respect to justice towards all creatures, including human beings, but in the image of a self-willed God as mere dominators and manipulators of dead, meaningless processes.”

  • The postmodern continues to filter down into popular culture and media…

“With Interstellar, however, Nolan has taken that microcosmic perspective and widened it to the dimension of the cosmic. The typically Nolanian questions—what does it mean to be conscious/responsible/loving/human?—here take on the heft of the human species as a whole. Interstellar is concerned less with “man versus nature” than it is with “man versus human nature.” While the film has a marked admiration for science—it is science, in the end, that helps humanity to rescue itself—it has just as much respect for wonder and awe and what you might call, in the broadest and perhaps even the narrowest sense, faith. Its villains are the characters who trust too much in logic, without the ballast of something more transcendent. They are the ones who choose physical survival over everything else—who prioritize living, you could say, over life.”

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