Le capitalisme comme religion : Walter Benjamin et Max Weber

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The fragment “Capitalism as Religion” written by Walter Benjamin in 1921 (and first published posthumously in the mid-1980s in his complete works) is one of his most intriguing – and “hermetic” – texts. Inspired by the works of Max Weber, which he cites, on the elective affinity between the Protestant Work Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, Benjamin goes much further than Weber: not only does capitalism have religious origins, it’s a religion in and of itself, a constant cult that is leading the world, sans merci, to the House of Despair. “Capitalism as Religion” is an anti-capitalist reading of Weber, of a piece with some of the writings of Georges Lukacs, Ernst Block and Erich Fromm.

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... A vast sense guilt that is unable to find relief seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal, to hammer it into the conscious mind… (Benjamin, ] 1996. Some scholars have already discussed this text, especially with reference to the recent and still ongoing debt crisis in European states, sharing its interpretation of capitalism as a religion that produces at the same time debt and guilt (Hamacher, 2003;Löwy, 2006;Steiner, 2006;Stimilli, 2011;Salzani, 2013;Agamben, 2013); the idea of capitalism as a system of indebtedness is also to be found in Lazzarato (2011). Benjamin himself notes the ambiguity of the German word Schuld: Schuld (consider the demonic ambiguity of this word) 1996). ...
The modern economy has developed within the domain of a justified power, by purporting to achieve a kind of social justice (fairness). In the current knowledge-creating economy, so-called “merit” realizes itself only in a hard competitive context: fairness is impossible. The myth of creativity exercises a seductive power, by promising a lifestyle without (need of) justification. An interpretation of Benjamin’s Capitalism as Religion (1921) and of Nietzsche’s texts (The Joyful Wisdom, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Genealogy of Morals) may throw light on this lifestyle, as well on the philosophical and political weakness of some resistance movements of the Seventies. The proposal is to resist by deactivating the ambition to be creative.
... Hace algún tiempo, Michael Löwy (2006) nos llamó la atención hacia ese texto, y sostuvo que debía ser leído como una radicalización de la tesis de Max Weber. Ahí mismo, Löwy señala que es evidente, a todas luces, que el texto se inspira en la obra de Weber, pero que reemplaza su "modo de andar 'axiológicamente neutral' por una fulminante denuncia anticapitalista [[…] surtout, il remplace sa dermarché 'axiologiquement neutre' (Wertfrei) par un fulminant réquisitoire anticapitaliste]." ...
El presente ensayo analiza el desarrollo del argumento de Max Weber sobre la relación entre ética puritana y capitalismo frente al desarrollo del argumento de Walter Benjamin en torno a la descripción del capitalismo como religión. Si bien se ha presentado el texto de Benjamin como una radicalización de la tesis weberiana, el presente artículo propone que esa descripción puede ser equívoca, y parece insuficiente para describir la relación entre estos dos autores: Benjamin no radicaliza, en el sentido de continuar de forma extrema, la tesis de Weber; sino que construye una tesis esencialmente distinta. Mientras Weber plantea una relación de ‘afinidades electivas’ entre la ética puritana y el capitalismo, Benjamin plantea una relación de identidad entre ambas. A partir de esta distinción se sostiene que de estas aproximaciones se desprenden consecuencias políticas mutuamente excluyentes.
Financially choked by economic and demographic decline, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy federal protection in 2013. In what sense can a situation of generalized insolvency be said to pave the way for the utopia of a debt-free world? Avoiding the easy symbolism that so often transforms Detroit and its inhabitants into an exciting thought experiment, Benjamin Markovits’s novel You Don’t Have to Live Like This (2015) offers a nuanced answer to this question, challenging the capitalist narrative of revival as much as the alternative promise of self-sufficiency. Far from being spared the anxiety of financial collapse, life without debt reveals worlds of precarious possibilities where mutual aid and autonomy go hand in hand with greater vulnerability.
From 1492 onwards, the history and the appearance of the Americas acquired a new nature. The invasion of the Conquistadores is a critical moment not only in the constitution of modern western subjectivity, but also in shaping the pattern of world domination: in the words of Aníbal Quijano, “modernity, capitalism and Latin America were born the same day”. Indeed, to understand the paradoxes and challenges of the Latin American people, one has to understand the self-destructive logic of capitalism’s modernity–coloniality. Inspired by Walter Benjamin’s project, this essay proposes a contrary reading of history in order to track the major colonial paradigms and the liberation struggles of its victims. Through evangelization, religion played an important role in the colonization of the indigenous imagination: myths, beliefs and legends of the Christian world were imposed on dominated societies. However, religion as the “sigh of the oppressed creature” (Marx) enabled the emergence of liberation Christianity: an ethos against colonial domination and against the idols of death. The theoretical expression of this liberating ethos was a school of thought that emerged in the mid-twentieth century in Latin America. Today, it is known as liberation theology. The theoretical and historical importance of liberation theology lies in its critique of the ideology of development, in its denunciation of the dynamics of modernity and in its fight against the idolizing of the market. Supported by Marxist and critical analysis, and applying categories borrowed from the social sciences, liberation theologians of both sexes made a radical reading of the Gospel and thus showed the fetish character of capitalism and the destructive dynamics of modernity. However, such criticism was always articulated to organizations and popular movements fighting for the radical transformation of society.
The article analyzes the relation between theology and historical materialism in Franz Hinkelammert and Walter Benjamin. From the consideration of diverse writings of both philosophers, important points of meeting appear between them, particularly concerning to the analysis of the links between Christianity and Modernity, Modernity and capitalism, Utopian tendency and Messianic redemption. Besides, the role that both authors assign to the myths of domination and emancipation is emphasized within the constitution of modern societies.
This essay outlines several points discussed during Giorgio Agamben's visit to Moscow in 2006. Among these were the problems of contemporary genealogy and the economy of power, in which capitalism operates as a religion. This is discussed in connection with a Russian cultural scene that has been fueled by petroleum dollars.
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