This is the first post of an extended series outlining capitalism, it's history, oppressive nature, and the fundamental problems with modern Western Christianity as its champion. This series is the result of months of hard work and research. Cited sources can be found here. Enjoy!
After the Enlightenment philosophers and scholars believed they were witness to a new era. One where rational thought gave way to moral reasoning, and mankind was released from the prejudices of predominant religious thinking. Immanuel Kant described the Enlightenment as “Mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error” (Rohlf, 2010). Bringing on its heels the American and French revolutions, the Enlightenment sought to bring about a new way of thinking that transcended willful ignorance and instead pushed individualistic thinking. However, several centuries later we find ourselves at a point where the Enlightenment is merely a nostalgic piece of forgotten lore. Today, particularly in America, the cultural capital of the world, we have reached a stage of regression to a point where public consciousness is perhaps more willfully ignorant than ever before of the oppression experienced by the masses. The American people remain blissfully unaware of the plight of the working class, and of the capital institutions put in place to maintain both the oppression and the illusion that it is nonexistent.
This series is an attempt to analyze the significance of capitalism in the United States and the effect that it has had on ways of thought throughout history as an oppressive structure. As a capitalist economy became the dominant force of American culture, other vital factors of American culture began to shape themselves around the facets of capitalism, even perhaps contradicting their own traditional and moral foundations in exchange for a more economically-minded precept. The purpose of this study is to examine the rationale behind the capitalism and the current capitalistic state that dominates American economics and culture. It is an attempt to highlight the conflicts that it creates in ethics and religion, particularly Christian doctrine.
In this study I will examine the function and methods of rational (modern) capitalism, particularly focusing on the Protestant and Calvinist adoption of early capitalism, and its expansion westward to America. This series will also discuss the benefits and the problems that Americans, corporations, and the state experience in a capitalist culture, particularly from the view of the working class. This study will then analyze Critical Theory and its analysis of modern thinking, particularly with an eye toward modern thinking in America in regards to capitalism and its oppressive and contradicting nature. I will examine several key members of the Frankfurt School: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse, particularly, and European thinker Habermas. I will tie their theories to an ever-expanding sense of oppressive social conditions that pervades a capitalism-centric America. This study will also briefly examine current poverty and income inequality statistics to provide a background for discussion on oppression experienced by the working class.
This paper will briefly discuss the basic biblical teachings of Jesus and the moral doctrine of emergent Christianity. I will also use the theories of the members of the Frankfurt School and Habermas, along with the works of Marx and Weber, to reveal the intricate and subtle ways that capitalism has become a dominant cultural force in America. I will then apply Critical Theory and its response to the justification for capitalism in America, especially from a modern Christian perspective. I will also utilize Weber’s study on the Protestant Ethic and examine the modern conflict of capitalism and Christianity, focusing on how capitalism drives modern thought and ethics, and how that popular sentiment conflicts with traditional Christian morals, even in a country that largely identifies itself as Christian. I will identify this contradiction and also provide evidence of existing and continual oppression from the economically controlled state.