Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Capitalism as aberrant Western rationalism ? The Orthodox case against Capitalism.

Here Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlasios, fr. Hierotheos Vlachos, both highly respected Orthodox theologians, make the case for Capitalism to be antithetical to Christianity, based on deformed Western metaphysics reliance on rationality to organize life, by way of Weber of course.

Here I give a skeleton of the essay in quotes, which is long, and a link to it at the bottom. 

By way of webber they note that there have always been profit making and class differences, but in the West, because of of its unique metaphysics,  

“The difference is that in the Western Middle Ages, Capitalism took on the form of a rational organisation; it was the pursuit of profit, “within the framework of a permanent, rationalistically-organised capitalist business, with efficiency as its criterion...

The centre of man’s life became rational reasoning and with it, man came to regulate all his functions and activities. 

....he rational, business recycling of capital and the rational capitalist organising of labour” were born in the West during the Middle Ages, and an important role to their growth was played by the Protestants with their particular ethics. It is a fact that the growth of the spirit of Capitalism is part of the evolution of rationalism”

They then say, originating in Augustine's predestination, and blooming fully finally in protestantism, came the deep calculations of the “verification and reassurance of God’s Grace in man...Am I chosen, or am I not?”

“It is only natural that such a mentality would lead to a rationalizing of moral behaviour, and in general to a rationalist view of man’s life. And, as we saw elsewhere, this rationalism and rationalist organizing of life had resounding consequences in the social sphere also, since that is where the spirit of Capitalism as we know it today was created...

The fact is that the theory of predestination rationalised life, it systematised social and professional activities and placed man within the framework of the duties he had to carry out. It was precisely these points that contributed towards the development of the so-called spirit of Capitalism...
The degree to which the theory of predestination significantly affected the capitalist mentality of Western man will become evident from the consequences of this theory on private life, on the asceticism of Protestantism and on the sanctity of the profession

God’s transcendence led the puritan to a complete existential isolation, to a negative stance towards all the emotional elements that exist in civilization and religion, and it in fact became the root of the most pessimistic form of individualism. Even the Calvinist communication with God “would take place in profound spiritual isolation”.

This individualism, which became a way of life, significantly contributed to the creation of the spirit of Capitalism, since the Capitalist turns inwardly to himself; he shuts himself up hermetically inside himself and does not pay any attention to the others.

According to Calvin, the world exists only for the glory of God. The chosen Christian exists in the world for no other reason than to contribute to the augmenting of God’s glory. The chosen offers social labour, because this is what God demands for the organizing of social life. Consequently, Calvinists work socially, they exercise professional work only for the greatest possible glory of God. It is within this context that we should also regard the love towards our neighbour. This impersonal, utilitarian labour and offer contribute to the glory of God.

It is obvious that the anthropological and practical consequences of the doctrine of predestination cultivate a form of pietistic individualism and they direct man towards a spiritual and social loneliness. Because when a community offer is impersonal, then in reality it is a form of social individualism. We believe that this individualistic way of living constitutes one of the basic factors of the spirit of Capitalism.

Indeed, Orthodoxy differs radically, both Capitalism as well as Socialism, from a philosophical, structural and organisational point of view, since both these systems are offspring of Western metaphysics. The social teaching of Socialism is related to the social teaching of Christianity, but we there are two basic differences. The one difference is that its implementation is achieved through revolutions and laws and not with freedom and love; the other difference is that Socialism, in most of its manifestations, is linked to a specific world theory and is thus an atheistic ideology. Most certainly however, while Orthodoxy may relate to Socialism from the aspect of social teaching, it is nevertheless in complete dialectic opposition to the spirit of Capitalism.

Both Capitalism and Socialism are transferred and imported systems. One could add here that the Socialist theories infiltrated the Orthodox East where Orthodoxy prevailed, because the views on justice, equality, love etc. were familiar here, years ago. Even today, the theories of Socialism – Marxism are difficult to prevail in the Western world, because the individual prevails there. And in these individualist perceptions, Capitalism flourishes.

We could preferably say that Orthodoxy is anti-metaphysical. The centre of Orthodox anthropology is not the “orthos logos” (the appropriate word, reasoning). Without abolishing logic, Orthodoxy transcends it through a revelation by God, which is beyond all reasoning and not against reasoning.

The theory of predestination is rejected by the theology of the Fathers of the Church. God does not violate man’s freedom and those who wish can become sons of God. In Orthodoxy there is no “aristocracy of the pious”. When man follows a specific method of therapy, he can even reach the state of theoptia (the ‘sight’ of God). Thus, he comes to know God, he acquires selfless love and loves the entire world. Just as medical science cannot be metaphysical, so Orthodox theology cannot be metaphysical.

We are all deacons (ministers). Job professionalism, and especially the mentality of professionalism, is linked to profit, to the increase in production by any means, to the exploitation of man and so many other terrible things.

The view that the profession of each person is predetermined by divine Providence is inhuman, since it abolishes man’s freedom or makes him even more audacious. Imagine what could happen if the merchant, the manufacturer and in general every businessman thought that their work was a profession determined by God. In this case, every kind of abuse, injustice and exploitation would be justified.  This is why labour does not identify with the profession. After all, the tradition of our land in rural societies and communities and in the Monasteries has proved that one can work and offer much, without exercising a particular profession. But when man is obliged to exercise a specialised profession, he must perceive it as a labour that is performed within the framework of philotheia (love of God) and philanthropy (love of fellow man).

Orthodox ascesis does not aspire to the fulfilment of our duties to God, or to the reassurance that one belongs in the aristocracy of the chosen, but to the liberation of our nous (mind) from its subjugation to creations.

In opposition to rationalism, according to which rational reason (orthos logos) is man’s centre, Orthodoxy accepts that man’s centres are two, nous (mind) and logos (word, reason). The nous relates to God and the divine, while the logos relates to our environment. When the nous is enslaved by creations, man is psychically, psychologically and spiritually ill. The ascetic effort aspires to liberating man’s nous from its subjection to logic, to passions and the world that surrounds him.” 

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