Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

September 24th, 2013

Secular supercessionism and alternative modernity

posted by

Recent years have seen the resurgence of “metahistories” that seek to provide a single complex narrative of seemingly disparate events and developments. Among the most prominent contemporary accounts are Marcel Gauchet’s La condition historique (2005), Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) and Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution (2011). In different ways, all three offer an overarching story of how the distant past—whether the emergence of the modern state or the rise of secular unbelief as a default position or cultural capacities driving religious development—continues to shape the present. Brad S. Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation is another such ambitious attempt, charting the way in which Protestantism unwittingly invented the capitalism and secular liberalism that together constitute our current condition.

June 12th, 2013

The anatomy of a public square movement

posted by

Sociologist (and longtime TIF contributor) Nilüfer Göle assesses the emerging opposition movement in Turkey at Today’s Zaman.

June 10th, 2013

An excursion through the partitions of Taksim Square

posted by

TaksimTaksim Meydanı. Partition Square. Although it has taken on potent new resonances in recent days, the name of Istanbul’s throbbing central plaza commemorates a now-forgotten history, the function of the site during the Ottoman period as a point of distribution and “partition” of water lines from the north of the city to other districts. Already long the favored site of demonstrations in Istanbul, Taksim is now the scene of the largest anti-government protests in Turkish Republican history. And the name of the square speaks volumes—what better word than “partition” to describe the increasingly politicized cleavages that have defined Turkish public life over the past decade, finally achieving international reverberation with the current protests?

March 14th, 2012

Imagining radical refusal

posted by

In Reviews in Cultural Theory, Erin Wunker reviews Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Postsecular Modernity by Simon During.

December 8th, 2011

Frequencies 61/100 – 70/100

posted by

Yesterday marked the seventieth entry in Frequencies, a co-production of The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha.

August 9th, 2011

Religion in the call center

posted by

When I set out to examine the lifestyle changes of employees working night shifts in India’s call centers, I was surprised to discover how outsourcing highlights some of the important tensions between new modes of secularity and new religious modernities emerging around the world.

July 27th, 2011

The house that D’Souza built?

posted by

Earlier this year, Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, a former adjunct professor at King’s College, wrote an exposé for Killing the Buddha on the small Evangelical and—at least in the eyes of its authorities, if not in those of all of its students—politically conservative college housed in New York’s Empire State Building. Now, Andrew Marantz, of New York Magazine, takes a closer look at D’Souza’s tenure, the college’s sense of its vocation, and the student body being trained to become, in D’Souza’s words, “dangerous Christians.”

July 11th, 2011

The geopolitical imperative?

posted by

Ritualistic evocations of “America” . . . and the deep-seated sense that somehow the United States is sacrosanct space—war, by definition, taking place elsewhere—are ways of being toward the world that mask an overwhelming desire, sometimes ferocious, to avoid all sacrifices: professionalized (class-based) military, ridiculously low taxes (especially for high earners), lax popular engagement, minimal obligations, a dislike for central authority bordering on hatred. The “exception” was extended into the 1950s by means of the Cold War (which was in fact the intention), but the last time the sacrifice was generally accepted was indeed the last: Vietnam. From then on, the geopolitical imperative has looked different. Accepting the globalism of the U.S. in one form or another is one thing; sacrificing for it is an altogether different one. Sovereignty, the right to decide on the exception, has thus typically resided in the geopolitical imperative, and it has been experienced on the outside. Few foreigners make any mistake about the importance of U.S. geopolitics and the “right” that it seems to embody.

May 25th, 2011

Every moment an Aha! Moment!

posted by

Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon is a work, first and foremost, of cultural anthropology. The back cover confirms this fact. Yes, the book is about the incorporations of Oprah. But more significantly, it is an ethnography of “American astonishment,” of what it feels like to live before screens that enlighten and advertise and encompass (the virtual counterpart of living within the effervescent glare of studio lights and perpetual applause). Lofton captures, as few writers can, the everyday magic of our viral time—what, in the ritual grammar of Oprah, are referred to as “Aha! Moments.”

May 16th, 2011

Oprah the Omnipotent

posted by

Lofton tells me she shares with Jonathan Z. Smith the view that difference is the beginning of any good conversation. I am going to take her up on that notion and dwell here on a point of disagreement rather than those points, about the wild commingling of religion and consumption, upon which we agree. . . . I agree with Lofton that there is all too much about Oprah’s world and her devotees to make one wonder—at least from a certain highbrow academic standpoint—about “the intensity of their shallowness.” Call me an unreconstructed humanist, an overly hopeful liberal, but I doubt that banality is the sum of the matter, even for Oprah’s most frivolous (or lighthearted) fans.

April 7th, 2011

OMG: Oprah Winfrey, pop religion, and the temple of our familiar

posted by

I have been—and perhaps in some ways will always be—one of the denizens, the followers, the 100% skeptical and yet 100% “true believers” of and in the Oprah Nation. I have been both captivated by her programs about white supremacy in all-white Forsyth County, Georgia (which aired in 1986, my freshman year in college) and the Little Rock Nine’s steely and yet graceful fortitude (which aired in 1996, when I was in graduate school) and embarrassed by her ostentatious obsession with the material (see the “My Favorite Things” episodes from any year). Still I can’t deny that O’s consistent engagement with the cultural memory of the Civil Rights movement and her equally consistent obsession with spectacular consumerism are somehow entwined.

April 5th, 2011

Oprah, the Rorschach test

posted by

Focusing on Oprah as an icon/inkblot, we can use our reactions to her as a Rorschach test:  What do we project onto Oprah and what analytical blind spots result from these projections and the discursive anxieties that underlie them? The uneasiness, evident in Lofton’s tone throughout the book, is an index of fundamental contradictions that many of us, as members of the intellectual elite, embody.

March 15th, 2011

Spirituality: what remains?

posted by

To use the concept of spirituality analytically is enormously difficult. There comes a point in reading this book when one can’t help wondering what would not count as spiritual? But, of course, that all-encompassing capacity is an important part of the popular appeal of this category in the first place. In a helpful moment of specificity, Lofton reports that Oprah is opposed to religion, which is identified with “exclusive rituals, legislating hierarchies, codes of membership.” Spirituality, by contrast, would presumably be what remains once these impediments have been removed. It is not created or bestowed, but uncovered. In this respect, spirituality is the product of that purification characteristic of what I have called the “moral narrative of modernity.”

March 14th, 2011

“The hegemony of her sway”

posted by

Oprah’s “gift is not her interviewing strategy but her confessional promiscuity.” While claiming only to tell you what she herself believes, Oprah “converts you to an idea, to the idea of her biographical revelations as a model for the world. She is the divine pervasion.” This is a largely passive religious practice. One watches the consumption and eclectic conversation of Oprah and her guests. The viewer participates by buying into Oprah’s interpretations and by buying the goods that Oprah offers and affirms. Paradoxically, the sure pathway to valuing oneself and finding one’s own truth is to follow in the way of Oprah, believing what she believes and possessing the cashmere sweater sets, elegant journals, and teak serving trays that she recommends. It is, in Lofton’s words, “the hegemony of her sway” that is the core of Oprah’s spiritual power.

February 25th, 2011

Post-secular development

posted by

For most of the second half of the twentieth century development was assumed to be consonant with modernity and its attendant practices: secularism, reason, and science. However, it is increasingly apparent that the secularity of development should no longer be taken for granted. This is visible not only in recent initiatives for “faith-based development,” but also in movements that seek to develop faith by emphasizing religious ethics conducive to economic rationality.

December 15th, 2010

Nothing human is foreign to me

posted by

The problem as I see it is not that students in the liberal arts are somehow forbidden to argue their religious views but that, whether they are religious or secular, they do not get sufficient exposure to religious texts. These texts contain many strange and interesting things—often surprising to religious and unreligious students alike. They uncover possibilities of being human. But in order for these possibilities to emerge, they need to be approached in a secular spirit. That is, their specifically theological language needs to be translated into a conceptual language through which people can imagine a given possibility without a prior or subsequent adherence to it as the absolute truth.

December 10th, 2010

Endgame capitalism: An interview with Simon During

posted by

Simon During is a professor at the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland, having previously taught at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Melbourne, and elsewhere. In addition to editing The Cultural Studies Reader, now in its third edition, he is the author of several books, including Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (Harvard, 2002) and Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity (Routledge, 2010). In both, he brings questions of the secular to bear on historical, literary sources both obscure and revelatory. His Compulsory Democracy: towards a literary history is forthcoming.

November 23rd, 2010

A Catholic critique of capital?

posted by

A lengthy profile by John Cornwell, which appears in the November issue of Prospect, examines the biography and the philosophical work of Alasdair MacIntyre, particularly in regard to the relevance of his Marx-inflected Thomism for confronting the ongoing crisis of capitalist economies in Europe and the U.S.

October 21st, 2010

Have atheism and political radicalism parted ways?

posted by

So argues John Milbank at the ABC (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corp.) Religion and Ethics page—indeed, that they have not only diverged but become, in effect, contrary to one another.

September 23rd, 2010

The future of China’s past: An interview with Mayfair Yang

posted by

Anthropologist Mayfair Yang teaches in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has done pioneering work discovering, describing, and reflecting on the fate of traditional culture in post-revolutionary China through numerous articles and edited volumes, two documentary films, and her book Gifts, Favors, and Banquets: the Art of Social Relationships in China. Throughout, she brings the insights of post-colonial theory and gender studies to bear on the living remnants of ancient ways of life. She is currently writing a new book, Re-Enchanting Modernity: Sovereignty, Ritual Economy, and Indigenous Civil Order in Coastal China.

September 9th, 2010

The sun shone fiercely through the window at Starbucks (Part I)

posted by

Let us recognize, from the outset, the delicious perversity of inviting comments upon comments about the comments about Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, itself a commentary, magisterial in scope, about the inability of Anglo-Europeans to end a certain cycle of commentary about themselves, their religion, and their humanity. Nevertheless, of the many thoughtful responses and salvos found in Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, I was most struck by Wendy Brown’s pointed and potentially devastating piece on the shortcomings of Taylor’s “odd historical materialism.”

Taylor’s sense of the material world is not unrelated to his not always implicit commitment to (or perhaps nostalgia for) the ideals of a self that flourishes, unfolds, and, at the end of the day, can be sufficiently liberated from history so as to be able to take the measure of itself—in concert, of course, with others, as they liberate themselves sufficiently from those very same forces.

August 20th, 2010

A spiritual and moral approach to capitalism and aid

posted by

Speaking of Faith’s Krista Tippett interviews Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, on the ethics of aid and the coining of the term “patient capitalism.”

July 13th, 2010

Can greed be good?

posted by

In the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s new Religion and Ethics section, renowned American theologian Stanley Hauerwas asks, “Can greed be good?”—a question obviously prompted by the ongoing economic crisis. Hauerwas argues that greed is more than just an (individual) desire to be rich. Instead, it has to be understood in the context of wider economic relations. Greed can appear a virtue only in an economic system that is premised upon unlimited economic growth.

April 12th, 2010

The experiment that did not fail?

posted by

On the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Degania kibbutz, J. J. Goldberg writes about the decline of the institution in this week’s Forward. The demise of the original utopian vision of a better society was not inevitable; it was “murdered” by a “combination of malice and neglect by government officials and incompetence by planners in the central kibbutz federation in the 1980s.”

April 12th, 2010

Serving the master

posted by

Religion Dispatches reviews Lake Lambert’s Spirituality, Inc.: Religion in the American Workplace (NYU Press, 2009).

October 14th, 2008

Welcome to the faith-based economy

posted by

Last week as I listened, along with many other Americans and others around the world, to President Bush’s most recent effort to reassure us about the current economic meltdown I had a “Road to Damascus” moment.  It happened as I heard Bush repeat the word “faith”. […]