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Submit an article Journal homepage. Original Articles. Pages Received 01 Apr Additional information Notes Religious faith encourages a religious actor to undertake action. Huntington, The Third Wave. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World , 6. Davie, ibid. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World , 5. Stepan, Rethinking Military Politics. Brazil and the Southern Cone , 3. Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World , Article Metrics Views. Article metrics information Disclaimer for citing articles.
Time, not carbon or land, is the raw material of our humanity. If our freedom is defined by the rational use of our time, capitalism is defined by its irrational waste. In all of the excitement over the revival of socialism, it can be easy to lose sight of what capitalism actually consists in—or at least, how Marx understood it.
The historical significance of wage labor, after all, was precisely its linkage between monetary remuneration and the iron progress of the clock. This linkage between value and labor-time, codified into the wage, distinguishes capitalism from alternative economic forms. And it explains why unemployment is immediately classified as a problem, instead of celebrated as evidence that we can feed and clothe ourselves with less labor than before.
The only solution, therefore, would be to remake our economic system in a way that honors our finite time precisely by disaggregating the equation of time and economic value that is the hallmark of capitalism.
The book concludes with a robust vision of democratic socialism in which time, and not just capital, serves as a resource to be cherished and distributed. He does, though, think that they are inadequate given the magnitude of our crisis; they do not arise from a fully articulated philosophy of what man is, and what sort of world would be fit for her flourishing. More pointedly, he thinks that we are focusing too much on the mechanisms of redistribution, and not enough on the capitalist, temporal logic that governs the creation of value.
His form of democratic socialism essentially gives us back our time. The endless hours that are sucked into the maw of production can be ours, once again, if we have the courage to claim them.
Partially, this involves the simple exploitation of technology to increase the amount of time we are away from work. It also, though, presumes the revaluation of work and the economy itself. He imagines a world in which our work is unalienated because we have freely chosen it, and because we understand how it contributes to a just world that we want to be our own. This is a world, too, in which we are not riveted to a profession forever, but can exercise our talents in diverse ways across our lives because we are not submitting our bodies to the dictates of the market.
This is a utopian vision, to be sure.
That, though, is the great virtue of the book: it provides a regulative ideal, and a reminder of what kind of world we are actually fighting for. And if the history of religion teaches anything, it is that faith is not created with concrete proposals. Marx had no particular sympathy for religion, but he did not seek to explain it away as a failure of courage or as an error in judgment. This becomes apparent in his treatment of religion.
However bracing and convincing his linkage between secularism and socialism might be, he fails to make the case, either normatively or empirically, that only secularism can save us. It is enormously provocative and counterintuitive to assert that religious traditions all of them! And yet this is his consistent claim. Indeed, the history of humanity is little else than the history of that care. His response is that when they do so, they are not in fact acting religiously but are, despite their own self-perception, honoring the secular faith that is at the heart of the human condition.
A textual analysis of a famously complex thinker simply cannot bear this much weight.
Religious believers claim, in all manner of ways, that their care for the finite world is enlivened and awakened by their sense that the world is not dead matter, but rather emanates from the divine. Even secular people can imagine some form of it. Imagine that a dear friend died and left their beloved dog in your care, and that for years you loved and cared for this dog. It is likely that you would love this dog both in its own right, and also because of its provenance: through caring for the dog, you are honoring both the dog and the friend who gave it to you, even though that friend no longer exists.
It would be both uncharitable and mistaken for someone to tell you that you did not really love the dog, but were only honoring your friend. It would be especially so if that person did not know you but only knew the broad outlines of your story. He believes that you can either love the world in its finitude, or you can love the eternal creator, but you cannot possibly do both, and one could not possibly enrich the other. For many, this world matters precisely because of its linkage to the eternal.
His view is that religious believers, insofar as they are consistent, should be indifferent to the fate of the world because they care only about the afterlife. One objection is that this argument, which uses clearly Christian categories, fails to address the Native American traditions that have been employed against oil companies in recent years, most famously at Standing Rock. Another would be that, even from within the Christian tradition, there are deep resources for ecological consciousness that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
While we sometimes attribute an enlightened ecology to the New England Puritans, he shows how the many millions of evangelicals of the same period had a similar sensibility. The book shows what an approach to religion that strays from the titanic intellectuals and texts can do. In lieu of a rereading of Thoreau, Grainger offers us a fine-grained account of the hymns, sermons, and poetry that constituted the commonsense worldview of a people.
What Grainger shows is how deeply this permeated their daily lives. These were people who worshipped outdoors, and who viewed the contemplation of nature as a central component of spiritual practice. This reached bizarre heights in the evangelical attitude to health. They were, Grainger reveals, quite committed to hydrotherapy, believing that water, the stuff of baptism, had unique healing properties, and that mineral springs in particular were sacred sites.
His point is that the evangelical tradition has enormous resources for a veneration of nature and that, moreover, the history of U. He does not, in other words, have a theory to explain why so many people, today and historically, have devoted themselves to what he sees as transparently false understandings of the universe. Ironically, Marx himself is more instructive on this point, and less committed to a reductive reading of religious activity.
Marx did not believe that religion was an error in judgment, but rather an unsurprising response to a world in which our political and ethical ideals are so hideously absent from our economic realities. The mystifications of religion, in other words, are a reflection of the mystifications and contradictions of capitalism, and faith a coherent response to a world where salvation seems impossible.
The world cannot be saved by one book, even one as ambitious as This Life. We need many books, like this, speaking to many audiences, if we are to face the crisis of our moment. Democratic socialism will run into the ground if it lashes itself as tightly as this to a rigorous secularism. If the transition away from rapacious capitalism must begin with an educational process to reduce that number to zero, we will still be holding seminars on Kierkegaard until the seas overwhelm us.
Which factors remain threats to democratic consolidation? Outler Prize in Ecumenical Church History. Wordpress Edit Page. Moreover, the United States may have the wherewithal to win a war against a supposedly marginal aspect of Islam. References Related Information.
The task, now, is to meet people where they are, and to understand the stories and institutions that structure their lives in order to see how the moral arc of their particular universe might be bent toward justice. To do that, though, we need a vision of justice that is plausible and compelling enough to organize our efforts. After a half century of anti-utopian suspicion, This Life calls us back to a nearly forgotten style of thinking and imagining. In our time of genetic experimentation and climate apocalypse, we are forced to confront anew, and in public, the questions that long seemed safely sequestered in our private lives, and our private hearts: What is it to be human?