Lesson 78- Economic Determinism
I hope that my listeners are still with me as I have been tracing the historical and philosophical roots of the Cultural War between the Secular Humanist and the Church. Perhaps I should review some of the highlights to make sure that we are all on the same page.
In previous programs I have tried to establish the following points:
1. The thing that distinguishes our Western perspective of history and reality from that of the ancient world and the East is that we see them as a developing line whereas they saw them as a repeating circle.
2. We received this linear perspective from the Jew who, as a result of promises from God, were always looking to the future for a Messiah and the coming of the Kingdom of God
3. This perspective is known as the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History because it see history as developing towards a perfect society known as the Kingdom of God
4. As a result, we see the world as developing from potentiality to actuality; from “what is” to “what ought to be.” Therefore, Like Don Quixote, we are people on a quest who are always trying to revolutionize the world by calling it and ourselves to “repentance and reform,.”
5. What moves from potential to actual existence depends upon the relationships that we form. When we relate to things that are higher, we progress and bring into existence positive potential. When we relate to things that are lower, we regress and bring into existence negative potential. Thus, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we live in a universe where all of our decisions have the power of moving reality one way or another. And Logic, which is the Jesus within us, says that we will always “reap what we sow.”
6. The Chinese philosopher, Lau Tsu, saw this movement from potential to actual existence as the result of an interaction between the female principle, Yin, and the male principle, Yang, thereby implying that different types of intercourse on different levels were the cause of everything that comes into exists. Thus, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the things that we read, the things that we buy, the organization that we support etc… are all types of intercourse that affect our reality by moving potential things into actual existence.
7. The Yin, or female principle, is anything that receives and the Yang, or male principle, is anything that gives. In order for the movement from potential to actual existence to be progressive, the male principle has to contain some dominant quality that the female principle lacks. In other words, the giver has to possess some higher quality that the receiver lacks if the receiver is to progress.
8. When the female principle interacted with a dominant male principle the result is progressive as positive potential moves into actual existence. However, when it interacted with a sub-dominant male principle, the result is regressive, as negative potential moves into actual existence.
9. God, because He is the Highest Good and He lacks nothing, is the only totally Yang principle in the universe because there is nothing that He needs to receive from anyone else. Everything else in relationship to Him must assume the Yin or Female position of receptivity.
10. On the spiritual level, Yin, or the receptive mode, is humility and it is the only mode that the creature should take to its Creator. When Adam and Eve sinned through the sin of pride, they broke our relationship with God because Yang to Yang does not work. When Mary and Jesus, through obedience, showed a willingness to accept the Father’s will, they reopened the relationship through their humility. Yang to Yin always works.
11. The Hegelian Dialectic is another model which describes the dynamic interaction between a Yin Principle, symbolized by the Thesis which represents “what is” or actual, and a Yang Principle, symbolized by the Antithesis, which represents “what could be” or potential, resulting in a Child Principle, symbolized by the Synthesis which is the actualization of the potential that was in the Antithesis into a New Thesis.
12. The Hegelian Dialectic also is a reflection of the Trinitarian nature of the universe since it appears the triangle, which is a union of opposites, and all dialectical relationships, in which two things interact to produce a third, are Trinitarian in nature
13. The Hegelian Dialectic also is a description of how the human race moves from Gehenna, or “empty thought”, to the Ultimate Truth or God through the conflict between ideas which is resolved through a progressive synthesis, Each time it occurs, it purifies our understanding of the Truth through a resolution of the conflict between the Thesis and Antithesis. In the scriptures this is described as the “refining of gold ore” which when heated results in the impurities rising to the top where they are scooped off.
14. The Hegelian Dialectic is also a description of the Christian concept of “salvation” because it tells how we move from Gehenna, the Old Testament’s word for hell and the Kingdom of Mental Darkness to heaven, the Kingdom of Mental Light and Understanding.
15. The only way out of Gehenna, the Kingdom of Mental Darkness, is to follow the Truth, which is the only thing that can “set us free.” Thus, Jesus promised His apostle just before He ascended into heaven that He would send them the Spirit of Truth who would teach them all things.
16. Because the Hegelian Dialectic involves the resolution of conflict between the Thesis, which is the conservative principle, and the Antithesis, which is the liberal principle, the law of life and progress always involves a struggle that ends in a Synthesis that hopefully results in a higher level of truth
17. The Hegelian Dialectic is also a model for Marx’s theory of history which says that history is the story of “class oppression” in which the Thesis, or “haves” oppress the Antithesis, or “have notes”, and, following the revolution, a Synthesis, or New Class composed of elements from both classes is formed
18. All revolutions fail to solve the problem of “class oppression” because the New Class, or Synthesis, divides into new groups of “haves” and “have nots”
19. The reason why these revolutions fail to brings peace and justice upon the earth is because they don’t get rid of the cause of “class”, which is “private property”.
20. “Class oppression” will finally be eliminated when a revolution led by Communist will eliminate “private property” and create a “classless society”
21. The “classless society” will be based on the principle of the French Revolution: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. Liberty because people will be free in this utopian society, because all laws will disappear since all wants and inequities will be eliminated; Fraternity because all wars will disappear when Men will see each other as brothers; and Equality because when “social class” is eliminated all ranks will disappear. No longer will anyone be addressed as “Your Honor, Your Majesty, Your Excellency etc… Instead, everybody will address each other as Citizen or Comrade.
22. In the “classless society” everyone will “work according to his ability and receive according to his need.” Thus, “need” rather than education, or job, or position will determine income and no one will be allowed to make more than he needs. Also, as “need” increases or decreases so will one’s share of the wealth.
23. Communism and Socialism appeal to many liberal people, including Christians, because it mimics many of the features of Christianity. However, although it shares many of the “ends” of Christianity, it differs radically in its “means.” Marx was a scientific pragmatist which meant that he believed that anything that further the ends of the revolution was good and anything that hindered it was bad.
24. Communism is basically an “economic system” although it has political implications. This is because Marx, who believed in “economic determinism”, believed that how goods and services were made and distributed was the basic force in every culture and forced all other social institutions to change to match it. Therefore, if you changed the “economic system”, you eventually changed the entire culture from its politics to its religion,
25. Communism is also an antithesis that rose to challenge the economic theory of Capitalism. Capitalism emphasizes freedom, choice, the individual, private property, self-interest and competition. Communism emphasizes order, control, the group, common property, limited choice, common-interest, and cooperation.
26. Communism is a left lobe, controlled economy and society which is moral in the sense that what it produces is based on the moral values of those who control it. In other words, whether we agree with their objectives or not, we have to agree that they ask themselves whether what is produced is “good or bad” for the society. Therefore, to the extent that their decisions are based on long-term goals, they are moral. However, the morality in their system is a reflection of the leaders not the people whose desires and wishes have little or no impact on what the society produces.
27. Because Communism tries to logically plan a super-complex system like an economy, it often lacks creativity and flexibility, which are features of the right lobe of the brain. In a sense it is unnatural because, unlike Nature, which regulates and orders itself through the competition of a multiplicity of interacting creatures, Communism tries to control consciously what is better left to unconscious forces. In other words, like the left lobe of the brain, which because of it ability to focus on a specific event is unable to “talk and chew gum at the same time”, Communism is trying to plan consciously something that is too complex to plan because it contains too many variables. It would be better for the individual agents, the business and consumers, in the economy to work out their own balances through self-interest and competition.
28. If Communism is left lobed, rigid and uncreative, moral and unnatural, Capitalism is right lobed, creative and spontaneous, amoral and natural. Notice that I said amoral and not immoral. Capitalism has no morality. Like hedonism, which is the logic of animals, that says “whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever give me pain is bad”, Capitalism says “whatever brings me profit is good and whatever loses me money is bad.” It has no long-range social goals like Communism. It seeks the “immediate gratification” of profits and says that its job is to respond to the consumer’s demands, not to morally judge them or the products that they use. However, because of the capitalistic businessman’s responsiveness to the consumer’s desires and his desire for constantly growing profits, he is continually inventing new things to attract the consumer and to draw him away from his competitors, and like creatures in nature, he is constantly adjusting his product and output to the changing conditions in the economic environment. When demand goes up, he produces more; when it drops, he produces less; and if demand should disappear completely, he will either improve his product or find a way to make the product that the consumers want. Whereas Communism reflected the values of the planners at the top, Capitalism reflects, for better or worse, the values of the consumers on the bottom. There is no system which more accurately reflects the “hearts” of the people than Capitalism. If the people are immoral, it will produce “goods and services” that reflect their lower appetites. If the people are moral, it will produce “good and services” that reflect their higher nature. It is basically a impulsive right lobed system that is in need of a rational left lobe to guide it. If the people are right lobed, then we will have an economic system that, like the animal brain, is a right lobe to a right lobe. If the people are left lobed, then we will have an economic system that, like a mature human brain, is a creative right lobe that is reflected upon by a logical and moral left lobe.
Later, I will return to some further implications that flow from the difference between these two major economic systems. But for now, I would like to go into how religion and Capitalism, which started out as enemies, eventually became bedfellows. In order to do this, I will have to dig deeper into European history and how the Feudal System, based on a manor and castle, was eventually replaced by the industrial towns and cities of Europe.
You might remember that I said that Karl Marx believed in “economic determinism.” By this he meant that the economic system of any culture determined everything else in the culture. Let me give an example.
Suppose that we are part of a nomadic primitive tribe that was looking for a place to settle down. We are walking down a beach along the oceans when we spot some vegetation and a grove of trees growing a short distance in from the beach. We decide that this is the spot where we are going to settle down. However, we have to make an important economic decision as to how we are going to use “the means of production.” We have raw materials available to us; we have workers; we also have tools that we brought with us; and our leaders are capable of planning and organizing the work. However, what will we make?
Well, suppose we decide that we will become a fishing society. In that case, we will cut down the trees, form them into boats, make nets from the bark and leaves and proceed to survive by fishing. Now according to Marx, once this economic decision is made, it will shape and determine all other social institutions. Our females will seek to marry the best fishermen; our men will compete to display their dominance in fishing; our political leaders will be the best fishermen; our children will be schooled in how to fish and the games they play will involves skills needed for fishing, our religion will involve the worship of a being connected to the sea, such as Neptune or the Shark God and our prayers will be for calm seas and large catches.
However, suppose we make a different decision. Suppose we decide to take the grove of trees and cultivate those that are fruit bearing and any of the vegetation that is edible. In other words, “let’s become farmers.” Now, according to Marx, everything else will develop to match this decision. Our females will seek to marry the best farmers; our men will compete to display their dominance in this area; our political leaders will be the most powerful farmers; our children will be schooled in how to farm and our religion will involve a fertility god to whom we will pray for rain and a good harvest.
Do you get the picture? Change the economy and everything else will change to match its needs. Thus, if you are a Communist and you want to change the world, then you set out to change the economic system of every nation that you conquer.
If Marx is correct, then our current culture, in all of its major cultural institutions, has been transformed since the inception of Capitalism to match its needs. In other words, the cultural perspective of the Middle Ages, which was the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church, was incompatible with that of Capitalism. And therefore, a new religious perspective was necessary to accommodate the new economic theory. Let me review with you how Capitalism came about and how it affected political, religious, and other social institutions.
First of all, the roots of Capitalism began after the merchant class, composed mostly of Jewish traders, rose from the bottom of the social ladder to the top as, following the Crusades, trade with the East became a passion in Europe. Eventually, Christian lost their distaste for the “money making” practices of the detested and damned Jews and enter into it themselves.
Up until this time, the major classes in Medieval society were the nobility, the clergy, and the serfs. The clergy or Church was one of the few free choices open at that time, since both the nobility and the serfs were born into their position through heredity. As a result, members of both classes often entered the Church simply to solve a problem associated with their own position in society.
Because of the “law of primogeniture”, which held that the eldest son inherited everything, younger sons of noblemen were often left with nothing or dependent upon their older brother for whatever ‘crumbs” he might throw their way. Thus, European history is full of incidents of squabbles among siblings of the nobility over land and wealth that sometimes led to fratricide when one brother killed another. A good movie to see in this context is “Lion in Winter” starring Peter O’Toole, as King Henry IV of England, and Katherine Hepburn, as his queen, Eleanor of Aquitine.
A nobleman without land was like a jockey without a horse and thus, since the Church often possessed large parcels of lands left to them by the faithful, it became an attraction for the younger sons of nobles who lacked lands or who wanted to increase what they had. As bishops and cardinals, they could control the Church’s holdings even if they couldn’t own them. You can imagine the impact that this had on the quality of the bishops and cardinals in the Church.
On the other hands, sons of serfs who didn’t want to spend their lives pushing a plow on a feudal manor saw the priesthood as a way to get an education and to get off the manor. In both instances, we see an example of what St. Thomas would describe as “secondary purposes which were interfering with primary purposes” as both groups entered the clergy for the wrong reason.
Anyway, as trade and the merchant class increased in size and number, towns, which had been pretty much destroyed during the barbaric invasions of the Dark Ages, began to grow as merchants and businessmen began to set up permanent shops on the manorial lands of the nobility. In return for this right, the lord of the manor granted them a charter to exist for which he was paid in the form of taxes. As these towns grew, the business class was in need of workers to help them in their businesses. Discontented serfs who wanted to escape their dreary life on the manor began to run-away to the local towns where they were often hired and hid by the merchants and businessmen who needed workers. A practice developed that if the serf could remain uncaptured for a year, he could be openly hired by the businessmen after they paid the lord of the manor for his loss.
What we are witnessing here is the slow disintegration of one system, the feudal manor that was rural and hereditary, and its replacement by a new system, the towns that were urban and based on free labor.
From this new situation, two new classes would be created which would be made up of members from the two previous classes. As both members of the nobility and the serf class saw another option other than the clergy as a way out of their condition, they entered the new towns and became either businessmen or free workers. In French a town is a bourg; in German it is a “burg” For example, Pittsburg and Harrisburg simply mean the “town of Pitts” and the “town of Harris.” Thus, the business class that lived in towns became known as the “bourgeoisie” or the “burghers.” The former serfs who became free workers became known as the “proletariat”.
According to Marx, this is an illustration of his dialectic as Capitalism, the Antithesis that is replacing the Feudal System, forms a new Synthesis composed of members from both of the previous classes. The nobility, who were the “haves” of the previous system have combined with “serfs”, who were the “have nots”, to form a new class which then divides into the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
However, the change from one system to another has not solved the problem of “class oppression” because the “bourgeoisie” have replaced the “lords” as the “haves” and the “proletariat” have replaced the serfs as the “have nots.” However, Marx believes that Capitalism will simplify the problem because, as time passes, the dynamic of the Capitalistic system will eventually eliminate any middle classes that might develop between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat until all that is left are a few, monopolistic, power-hungry businessmen who own everything and a mass of starving, underpaid workers who own nothing. At that point, says Marx, a Communist Revolution will overthrow the bourgeoisie, take control of the “means of production”, and establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
As the bourgeoisie class grew in economic wealth, they grew more important politically because of the money that they could provide to finance the wars and luxuries of the nobility. In fact they became a major source for taxation. As a result, they became a power “behind the throne” which could never ascend the throne because political power was passed on hereditarily from father to son. The existing theory was known as the Divine Right of Kings and so long as it remained the basis for political power, the merchant class was forever banned from direct political power.
Eventually, they started to say “no taxation without representation” and demand that they have a say in the laws that governed them. Thus, in England, they established a Parliament to create laws. At first, it consisted of one house: the House of Lords. Then a House of Commons was added. The House of Commons, composed of members of the business class, had the “power of the purse” which meant that they had to approve all laws that pertained to taxation. Eventually the House of Commons appointed one of its members to be the Prime Minister to advise the king. Today the Prime Minister if the real power in England and the king and queen are figureheads whose major functions are ceremonial. By this time a new theory, called the Social Contract Theory, had replaced the Divine Right of Kings and laid the foundation for today’s democratic republics that are controlled by business interests. See says Marx, whoever controls the economy shapes all other social institutions.
Similar changes were taking place in other areas of European life.
When Europe broke out of the circular view of the Dark Ages where survival and existence were the key focus into a linear view following the Crusades where development and progress became the key focus, a cultural revolution took place. The influx of new ideas and goods led to the Renaissance, which was a rebirth of Art and Science. The Age of Faith, during the Dark Ages, was being replaced by the Age of Reason as science and technology, based on observation and experimentation, began to replace faith, based on authority. In psychological terms we could say that the left hemisphere of the brain, the source of logic and science, began to grow in dominance. We could also say that the human race was entering its adolescence where rebellion against authority was part of the process as the child starts to feel the awakening of his own individual identity.
With the growth of left lobe dominance, which is the source of consciousness, habits and rituals, which worked well during our childhood, began to be replaced by questioning and individual awareness. As a result, this led to an emphasis on individual identity over group identity that led to a questioning of authority, from the Pope and Church to the king. In other words, people wanted to think for themselves.
Thus, when those in authority abused their power, people began to protest. I have already described the abuses under the Medici popes. Eventually this led to the Protestant Reformation when Luther spoke out against the abuses involving indulgences. When the Church leaders tried to use raw power to silence him, he tacked his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, and the Protestant Reformation, which really became the Protestant Rebellion, began. In his 95 Theses, Luther expanded his complaints beyond indulgences and began to undermine the very authority of the Magisterium of the Church to define doctrine and to be the final interpreter of the Bible. Among other things, he declared that salvation was through “faith alone” and that good works played no role in it. When the Epistle of St. James undermined his premise by saying “faith without works was dead”, Luther removed it from his Bible along with the 7 book of the Apocrapha, partly because the Book of Macabees make reference to making sin offerings for the dead which supported the Church’s position on Purgatory and indulgences. However, the most devastating premise that Luther introduced was the idea of “private interpretation of the Bible.” This, of course, was part of the new spirit of individuality and it opened up a Pandora’s Box that we are still witnessing today because, besides providing a basis for Luther’s disagreement with the Church, it also provided a basis for other protesters disagreeing with Luther. And this brings us to John Calvin and the Presbyterians who will provide the shift in the religious perspective that Capitalism needed to support it.
The Church had said that we were saved by “faith and works”; Luther said that we were saved by “faith alone”; John Calvin said that neither faith nor works could save us because God had predestined everyone at the moment of their conception to either enter heaven or hell. There wasn’t a thing that anyone could do about it.
Where did he get this theory? From one of the epistles of St. Paul, where Paul says that God had predestined us from the beginning… Of course, there are other sections in Paul’s epistles which say that God desires that everyone should be saved but now that Luther had made it permissible for everyone to come to his own conclusion as to what the scriptures meant, it was possible for Calvin and others to draw their own conclusions as to what doctrines should be drawn from scriptures.
Calvin and those who agreed with him set up a theocracy in Geneva Switzerland where the church leaders dominated and controlled all areas of their followers life. It was not a happy religion. In fact, since Calvin himself was a lawyer, it tended to be very legalistic. And being legalistic, it tended to be very left lobed. Thus, the Presbyterians, just like the left lobe of the brain, tended to interpret the Bible literally and to reject images of any type. The leaders created a morality police whose job it was to spy on the people to make sure that they weren’t violating any of the moral laws. On Sunday, these keepers of the moral law peered in people’s windows to make sure they weren’t performing anything that could be interpreted as work on the Sabbath. Offenders were placed in the public square with their head and hands locked in a stock as a warning to others. For repeated or more serious violation, the penalty was to be burned at the stake.
Needless to say, this was a very demanding and difficult religion to follow and it contained a disturbing flaw in it basic doctrine. If everyone is predestined to go to heaven or hell and there is nothing that anyone can do to change God’s mind, then why should any of them follow the strict life dictated by this religion. If they are predestined to go to heaven, then it doesn’t matter if they live a life of pleasure here; if they are predestined to go to hell, then they should enjoy themselves as much as possible here. The problem was, “How does one know where God has predestined them to go?” In other words, what sign could John Calvin give them that would assure them that the hell they were going through now would result in eternal salvation. Calvin’s answer would provide the religious basis for Capitalism. But, since my time is up, I have to save that for my next talk. Here’s Dom!