by Ruel Padua, PhD
(N.B.: Based on the book entitled Armageddon: A Beginning? to be published soon. Citations of sources also included therein.)
On the other, liberalism in its extreme form, according to Professor Ghita Ionescu, became ‘synonymous with … self-interest in all its egoistic significance’. In more recent times, the multi-billionaire George Soros, among others, confirms our habitual practice when he says that in both our market and social behaviour, we are ‘guided by self-interest’. And as not many would disagree with, another writer deduces that it has become ‘the central argument of capitalism…’.
Not surprisingly, to many of us capitalism has not only brought economic progress and prosperity but is supposedly no less a natural and rational way of life. Along with communism, existentialism, and fascism, it is a much influential form of historicism which as an ideology reaches only for ‘things ordinary and profane while denying any reference at all to things supernatural and sacred’. Yet, it is also set apart by, among others, the private ownership of lands, banks, the means of production, e.g., raw materials, plants, etc.; and the distribution of goods by market forces and competitive drive for profit. The entrepreneur may then find his ‘purpose only in money and other material goods’. In any case the pursuit of wealth for its own sake is a most precise expression of acquisitive self-interest. Calling the business man, following Macaulay, the ‘natural representative of the human race’, Laski further says:
As an organized society, the liberal state, at bottom, had no defined objective save the making of wealth, no measurable criterion of function and status save ability to acquire it.
As we are then overcome by the liberal-capitalist spirit or paired off with capitalists and so become, following Marx, ‘capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will’, the pursuit of wealth even for its own sake only now seems to be the ‘true way to satisfy the nature of man’.
And so to most of us, between our willing to do justice for others and meeting our desires at their expense, we may realise that with the capitalists’ irreconcilables one’s rational self-interest lies not in the former but the latter. Anyhow, at whose expense or cost is one’s gain or wealth made? These insights being now put widely in practice, capitalism then finds the basis and cause to call into play a ‘rational paradigm of social organisation’ that none other than the state’s ‘legal sovereignty’ can provide—its bureaucracy. Such a corporate body is what they cannot do without; even as the latter now becomes the ‘most rational economic basis’ for the former. And so as their wealth-centred intensive thrusts become dominant, they could now transform the traditional state into the capitalist state. In keeping with Weber‘s instrumentally-rational social action, Giddens explains what ‘rational’ would have meant, to wit:
Rationalisation entails more … than simply the extension of technical reason—that is to say, the instrumentality of the correlation of the most ‘effective’ means to defined ‘ends’. The process of the expansion of technical rationality is accompanied by two other phenomena: the ‘disenchantment’ of the world, and the concomitant replacement of religious or mystical norms by abstract ‘rational-legal’ imperatives.
Such a conceptualising of ‘rationalisation’, e.g., of the ‘productive enterprise’, may be considered, as Giddens does, the ‘most essential element of (modern) capitalism’; and the ‘decisive “break” which separates’ it from traditional societies in the past. Yet, with all the changes that developed, especially, the growing division of labour and separation of the producer from the means of production and the land and by which the compulsion to labour (such as the ‘proletariat’) has become ‘purely economic and “objective”’, an unprecedented basis was also laid ‘for that peculiar and mystifying form whereby a leisured class can exploit the surplus labour of others….’ And therefore to many others like Dobb, this new exploitative form is the ‘essence of the modern system that we call Capitalism’. Such exploitiveness, in fact, has given rise to what Marx famously calls ‘surplus value’; yet, more importantly, to what Antonio Gramsci interestingly refers to as ‘cultural hegemony’ by the ruling classes in our times. And so if nothing more is said in this Chapter as to the workings in the extreme of their intensive thrusts, these findings may still be seen as severely as they could be as the ‘instrumentally-rational’ extensive thrusts in the pursuit of wealth for its own sake.
Needless to say, however, it was in those traditional societies gone by that ‘religious or mystical norms’ dominated. A necessary and, perhaps, irreversible outcome of such ‘social action’ (as mentioned above) is that religion is ‘squeezed out of the organisation of human conduct in the major institutional spheres of society’. No longer considered a ‘rational-legal’ validation of human action and behaviour, it is now widely seen in modern society to be ‘irrational’. And as also ideologically inapplicable as Christianity would have appeared even long before our times, the increasingly dominant capitalist outlook, in particular, of ‘exploitiveness’, could then only have meant in this guise to deny and dispose of incompatible Christian values as well—that is, whether irrational or not. It has thus been challenged in the Church’s missionary extensive thrusts by other belief systems such as, especially, ‘humanism’ and ‘liberalism’; both of which, being freedom- and interest-based are hostile to religion, particularly, Christianity in its ‘apostolic’ form.
In such cases, therefore, mainstream church-and-state relations typically develop into interest-based interaction between the various, individual churches on the one hand and the liberal-capitalist state on the other in which all parties may each derive—or ‘win’—material advantage or profit. They may not even be disinclined towards combining into some loose civil network with other sectors whose interests the state recognises; and which henceforth we will call the state-dominated co-option relations. Yet, due to their instrumentally-rational means, such ‘domination’ could only prove contrary or inimical to the Church’s value-rationality. It might even be seen to be ‘conspiratorial’ as they supposedly ‘look to … [their] own [self-]interests’—at the expense of the common good. All too often, anyhow, the direction and effect of such relations is that while the Church’s thrusts wane, those of the state continue to grow and expand. Even the Church has admitted as much:
… growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice. Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandonment [of] them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences. For today it is not rare for such things to be presented as requirements of scientific progress or of
a certain new humanism. In numerous places these views are voiced not only in the teachings of philosophers, but on every side they influence literature, the arts, the interpretation of the humanities and of history and civil laws themselves.