Jeremy Seabrook has an excellent piece in CiF on the way in which “the economy” has become the new religion. A comment by Ieuan is worth reproducing at length:

“The economy now has to be treated with a veneration long lost to mere religion.”

Thank you Jeremy. I thought I was the only one who was seeing the connection between the superstition of religion and the superstition of believing in the economy – a superstition which is admitted by ‘the market’ when they say the whole system only works due to ‘belief and confidence’.

Like ancient babylonian priests, who held a population in thrall by being able to foretell the times of eclipses and the equinoxes (not always accurately), the modern money masters hold us all in thrall by warning of the dire consequences which will befall us all if their words are not heeded. The ‘Dow’ and the ‘Footsie’ are quoted like prayers on the news bulletins, their movements interpreted as intently as any chickens entrails were in ancient Rome.

I hear no difference in tone, nor depth of belief, between Islamic fundamentalists and city boys, they both say that we must cleave to their ‘system’ or we are lost. Both look primitive and unthinking. And both seem, to me, to be far beyond the rational…a surrender of our (individual, human) power to the irrationality of a system – whether that be ‘economics’ or ‘religion’.

Yes indeed. I remember a dinner party back in 1981, soon after I arrived in the US, at which one of the guests was waxing lyrical about capitalism, property rights, and so forth. I suggested (quite mildly) that over the last few thousand years human beings had ordered their societies according to a number of quite different patterns, that none of them had lasted all that long, and that it was ahistorical to ascribe any uniquely special virtue to any particular pattern, just because it was the system under which we happened to be living. Five hundred years from now it will look as quaint as medieval guilds do today; ten thousand years from now it will be utterly forgotten. People reacted as though I had blasphemed, which in a sense I had.

3 Responses to “The economy is the new religion”
  1. Seconded.

    I’d like to quote this en bloc on Guardian Unlimited (The Guardian’s talkboard) where I think it would prompt some debate – may I?

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