“To those who followed Columbus and Cortez, the New World truly seemed incredible because of the natural endowments. The land often announced itself with a heavy scent miles out into the ocean. Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 smelled the cedars of the East Coast a hundred leagues out. The men of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon were temporarily disarmed by the fragrance of the New Jersey shore, while ships running farther up the coast occasionally swam through large beds of floating flowers. Wherever they came inland they found a rich riot of color and sound, of game and luxuriant vegetation. Had they been other than they were, they might have written a new mythology here. As it was, they took inventory”. Frederick Turner
“I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable…because foregone earnings from increased morbidity” are low. He adds that “the underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles….” World Bank chief economist, Lawrence Summers
As the new century rises like a wave on the horizon, we sense that we are not going to be able to ride this one out, that uncontrollable currents will pull us to the bottom and tear us apart. We have good reason to be frightened because we are in the midst of a “paradigm shift”; a tidal wave of change that threatens to overwhelm and annihilate us.
This new century brings with it dangers and challenges that we can scarcely imagine. Human society has experienced paradigm shifts in the past, but nothing compared to what is yet to come.
For 14 centuries, Ptolemy’s astronomical theory (that everything in the universe revolved around the Earth) was taught as religious dogma throughout Western Christendom. But, Copernicus changed all that and caused tremendous controversy in religion, philosophy, and social theory by proving mathematically that the Earth moves around the Sun.
The implications of Copernicus’ ideas were devastating for the Catholic Church. No longer was the Earth the center of the universe. In fact, man might not have a special place in creation at all! This was heresy on a grand scale. The medieval churchmen even refused to peer into a telescope to “see for themselves” because doing so meant defeat for their current religious dogma.
Before Copernicus’ time, knowledge was based on “authority” (reading scriptures or philosophical tracts). In contrast, the new knowledge was “empirical” (by scientific observation and experiment). Ultimately of course, science defeated religious dogma. The Copernican revolution successfully challenged ancient authority and caused a paradigm shift in our entire conception of the universe.
If we substitute “Industrial Religion” for Catholicism, “ecology” for Copernicus’ astronomy, and “Growthmen” for churchmen, we can see that a parallel situation exists today.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther established a new form of Christianity that ultimately came to regard work as the only way to obtain love and approval. But behind the Christian face arose a new secret religion that actually directs the character of modern society. At the center of Industrial Religion is fear of powerful male authorities, cultivation of the sense of guilt for disobedience, and dissolution of community by promoting hyperindividuality and mutual antagonism. The “sacred” in Industrial Religion is work, property, profit and power.
Industrial Religion is incompatible with genuine Christianity in that it reduces people to servants of the economy. The most aggressive and ruthless are rewarded with even more power and riches. Industrial Religion was destined to fail from the very beginning because it actively destroys its own premises (both morally and physically) by encouraging its members to dominate and exploit each other and nature.
Evidence that Industrial Religion is failing, ipso facto, is everywhere: desertification, topsoil loss, falling water tables, filling garbage dumps, ozone depletion, global warming, human sperm decline, rising cancer rates, loss of biodiversity, collapsing ocean fisheries, depletion of oil, nuclear waste, 300,000 to 400,000 polluted ground water sites, pesticide-resistant pests, antibiotic-resistant disease, billions of people in the Third World planning to industrialize; social problems such as jobless futures, the national debt, crack babies, declining SAT scores, skyrocketing teenage pregnancy, violence and suicide . . .
Growthmen are today’s equivalent of the medieval churchmen. They refuse to look at the scientific evidence and “see for themselves”, because once again, it means the defeat of their current religious dogma; it means that they must give up their faith that the problems caused by growth can be cured by more of the cause.
There is however, one big difference between yesterday’s churchmen and today’s Growthmen. Growthmen carry the collective responsibility for the deaths of billions of lives as once-civil societies gradually disintegrate into insurrection, chaos, and oblivion.
Willis Harman, GLOBAL MIND CHANGE; Knowledge Systems, 1988. ISBN 0-941705-05-6
“Nicolas Copernicus established mathematically that the Earth moves around the sun in On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres” [p. 5]
Lewis Mumford, THE PENTAGON OF POWER; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964. ISBN 0-15-671610-0
“If there is any one point at which one may say the modern world picture was first conceived as the expression of a new religion and the basis of a new power system, it was in the fifth decade of the sixteenth century.” [p. 29] “. . . it was by such close observation of planetary movements, as well as by tedious mathematical calculation, that Tycho Brahe confirmed Copernicus’ conclusions and made possible Kepler’s final correction.” [p. 31]
I. Bernard Cohen, THE BIRTH OF A NEW PHYSICS; Norton, 1985. ISBN 0-393-30045-5
“There were only two possibilities open: One was to refuse to look through the telescope or to refuse to accept what one saw when one did; the other was to reject the physics of Aristotle and the old geocentric astronomy of Ptolemy.” [p. 78]
“In the contrast between Galileo’s heroic stand when he tried to reform the cosmological basis of orthodox theology and his humbled, kneeling surrender when he disavowed his Copernicansim, we may sense the tremendous forces forces attendant on the birth of modern science.” [p. 126]
Thomas Kuhn, THE COPERNICAN REVOLUTION; Harvard University Press, 1957. ISBN 0-674-17103-9
“But for whatever the reasons, the Church did, in 1616, make Copernicanism a doctrinal issue, and all the worst excesses of the battle against the earth’s motion—the condemnation of Copernican opinions, the recantation and ‘imprisonment’ of Galileo, and the dismissal and banishment of prominent Catholic Copernicans—occurred in or after that year.” [p. 199]
Erich Fromm, TO HAVE OR TO BE; Bantam, 1977. ISBN 0-553-27485-6
“Luther established a purely patriarchal form of Christianity in Northern Europe that was based on the urban middle class and the secular princes. The essence of this new social character is submission under patriarchal authority, with work as the only way to obtain love and approval. [See reviewer’s comments on Luther below.]
“Behind the Christian facade arose a new secret religion, ‘industrial religion,’ that is rooted in the character structure of modern society, but is not recognized as ‘religion.’ The industrial religion is incompatible with genuine Christianity. It reduces people to servants of the economy and of the machinery that their own hands build.
“The industrial religion had its basis in a new social character. Its center was fear of and submission to powerful male authorities, cultivation of the sense of guilt for disobedience, dissolution of the bonds of human solidarity by the supremacy of self-interest and mutual antagonism. The ‘sacred’ in industrial religion was work, property, profit, power, even though it furthered individualism and freedom within the limits of its general principles. By transforming Christianity into a strictly patriarchal religion it was still possible to express the industrial religion in Christian terminology.” [p.p. 131-132]
Max Weber, THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM; Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-08434-2
“[Capitalism] is associated with an outlook of a very specific kind: the continual accumulation of wealth for its own sake, rather that for the material rewards that it can serve to bring. ‘Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for satisfaction of his material needs.’ This according to Weber, is the essence of the spirit of modern capitalism.”
“The entrepreneurs associated with the development of rational capitalism combine the impulse to accumulation with a positively frugal life-style. Weber finds the answer in the ‘this-worldly asceticism’ of Puritanism, as focused through the concept of ‘calling’. The notion of the calling, according to Weber, did not exist either in Antiquity or in Catholic theology; it was introduced by the Reformation.” [p. xii]
R. H. Tawney, RELIGION AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM; Peter Smith, 1962.
“It is because it is regarded as the final authority that the officers of the Church claim to be heard on questions of social policy, and that, however Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Calvinists may differ on doctrine or ecclesiastical government, Luther and Calvin, Latimer and Laud, John Knox and the Pilgrim Fathers are agreed that social morality is the province of the Church, and are prepared both to teach it, and to enforce it, when necessary, by suitable discipline.
“By the middle of the seventeenth century all that is altered. After the Restoration, we are in a new world of economic, as well as of political, thought. The claim of religion, at best a shadowy claim, to maintain rules of good conscience in economic affairs finally vanished with the destruction of Laud’s experiment in a confessional State, and with the failure of the work of the Westminster Assembly. After the Civil War, the attempt to maintain the theory that there was a Christian standard of economic conduct was impossible, not only because of lay opposition, but because the division of the Churches made it evident that no common standard existed which could be enforced by ecclesiastical machinery. The doctrine of the Restoration economists, that, as proved by the experience of Holland, trade and tolerance flourished together, had its practical significance in the fact that neither could prosper without large concessions to individualism.
“The ground which is vacated by the Christian moralist is quickly occupied by theorists of another order. The future for the next two hundred years is not with the attempt to reaffirm, with due allowance for altered circumstances, the conception that a moral rule is binding on Christians in their economic transactions, but with the new science of Political Arithmetic, which asserts, at first with hesitation and then with confidence, that no moral rule beyond the letter of the law exists. Influenced in its method by the contemporary progress of mathematics and physics, it handles economic phenomena, not as a casuist, concerned to distinguish right from wrong, but as a scientist, applying a new calculus to impersonal economic forces. Its method, temper, and assumptions are accepted by all educated men, including the clergy, even though its particular conclusions continue for long to be disputed. Its greatest English exponent, before the days of Adam Smith, is the Reverend Dr. Tucker, Dean of Gloucester. [p.p. 10-11]
REVIEWER’S COMMENTS ON LUTHER: Luther taught a very strong concept of “calling,” but not quite in the same way as the Puritans. For Luther, calling meant that all professions were equal in the sight of God, and that God was as glorified through a candlemaker creating high quality candles as he was through a priest or monk. His focus was breaking down the clergy/laity distinction in medieval Catholicism for a doctrine he called the “priesthood of all believers”.
The creation of a merchant class and the later Industrial Revolution led to what Weber is talking about. The Puritans took this concept of calling and eventually concluded that since good Christians worked hard for the glory of God, good Christians were wealthy Christians. Therefore, wealth was a sign of God’s favor. John Wesley (who was actually an Arminian Methodist rather than a Calvinist, but he fits in with Weber’s thesis very well) realized that if people followed the Methodist spiritual practice of hard work and thrift, they would soon become very wealthy. This worried him greatly, and he always exhorted his followers to “Make all you can, save all you can, so that you can give all you can.” Wesley himself lived by this rule and died poor, though he made a considerable amount of wealth in his lifetime. His followers, unfortunately, conveniently forgot about this point. [“Russ Reeves” <firstname.lastname@example.org> ]
Recommended further reading:
Berger and Luckmann, THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY; Anchor Books, 1966. ISBN 0-385-05898-5
“Reification is the apprehension of human phenomena as if they were things, that is, in non-human or possibly supra-human terms. Another way of saying this is that reification is the apprehension of the products as if they something else than human products—such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will. Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness. The reified world is, by definition, a dehumanized world. It is experienced by man as a strange facticity, an opus alienum over which he has no control rather than as the opus proprium of his own productive activity.” [p. 89]
This book takes you step by step through the process of constructing “social reality” and complete with institutions to “legitimize” that reality.
WARNING: If you read this book, you will never look at another human in the same light. This is one of those books, like BEYOND OIL, that will forever alter your world view.