The War Against Market Monotheism
The religion of the market is monotheistic; its only god is money. In the South it denies people the means to live,
while in the North it denies them the reason to live.
The market is where the whole of society exchanges things, given the underlying division of labor. Markets have always existed, from the prehistoric flint-making sites whose stockpiles indicate that they were bartered for other essential goods, to the traditional small-town markets where people would sell their eggs, chickens or vegetables so they could buy tools, clothes or even the services of a blacksmith or barber.
The big difference between these two forms of market is the existence of money as an intermediary. Money was originally introduced to serve as an instrument of measure that reduced the products of work differing in both quality and quantity to a common denominator. Up to this point, the market continued to be a means of communication and exchange. The ultimate reasons for living were defined elsewhere, established by social hierarchies, with implicit or explicit morals and religions whose origins and basis had nothing to do with the market.
The market only began to become a religion when it was set up as the sole regulator of social, personal and national relations, the single source of hierarchy and power. We are not going to outline here the history of this mutation, through which all human values have turned into mercantile values, including the values of thought, the arts and consciousness. We will limit ourselves to describing the economic, political and spiritual consequences of the latest phase of this cycle and sketching out some ideas on how to free ourselves from that reductionism and human entropy in which certain US theorists and their disciples throughout the world perceive—as Fukuyama’s book title would have it—the end of history.
If this drift were to reach its destination, we would be facing not the end of history so much as the end of human beings and that which characterizes them: the transcendence of their project. The overriding nature of the human project is what keeps us from abandoning ourselves to either an economic determinism guided by natural laws or to those spontaneous animal instincts that prevail in the sea, where the big fish eat the little ones, and on land, where millions of sperm are wasted for the chance formation of one embryo.
Five centuries ago money began to bestow powerWhat characterizes market monotheism, or totalitarian liberalism, is its scorn for human freedom, its willingness to mutilate that specific human capacity to form projects that are not a simple prolongation of the past, of animal instincts or individual interests. Adam Smith first planted the seed when he argued that the great lines of the economic world of his time had not followed some overall plan coming out of the mind of an organizer and deliberately implemented by an intelligent society, but rather were the accumulation of innumerable lines drawn by a mass of individuals who were obeying the instinctual and unconscious force of pursuing an end. From Smith to Hayek, by means of Bastiat and Friedman, the notion of project is systematically rejected.
At what moment did man begin to secede from his vocation? It is not a question of scale caused by the geographical expansion of trade. The silk or spice routes did not radically change this human vocation. The caravans that crossed Asia and the ships that sailed the oceans transported science, technology, spirituality and arts born from the experiences of many different peoples. They transported not only the decisive inventions that allowed culture to suddenly expand, such as the Chinese invention of paper transmitted to Europe by the Arabs, but also ideas, such as India’s spiritualism which through Alexandria and Plotinus awakened interest in the internal discovery of the living and creating principle of all things.
This fundamental mutation took place between the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453 and the invasion of the Americas by the conquistadors from 1492. Gold fever was the motor force behind the undertaking of such great adventures. The Arab domination of the Mediterranean led Europeans to seek an alternative route to conquer the sources of precious metals, whether by sailing around the coast of Africa, like the Portuguese, or crossing the Atlantic to reach the fabulous continent of Asia, like the Spanish. So tenacious in their ambition and so ferocious in their methods were the invaders that the indigenous peoples of the Americas came to believe that gold was the Christian god, as recalled in the beautiful book, "God and the Gold of the Indies," by Father Gustavo Gutiérrez. In effect, gold conferred the power of a god on men. Charles V used the strongest banking structure in Germany, belonging to the Fuggers, to corrupt the great electors and defeat his rivals Francis I and Henry VIII. For the first time, money had directly bestowed power and Charles V, once emperor, dreamed of creating a world empire.
Who predicted the future: Today we can reconstruct the evolution of the Western growth model following the fatal diversion of the supposed Renaissance. It involved the birth of a civilization based on quantity and on instrumental reason (Cartesian reason), a religion based on means, not ends because the fundamental dimension of reason—reflection on the ultimate ends and meaning of life—has been mutilated.
Adam Smith or Karl Marx?
Adam Smith in the late 18th century and Karl Marx over half a century later analyzed capitalism during its expansion period, but ended up with very different visions. Smith, known as the "father of political economy," developed a theory of growth in his seminal work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. This theory, called "classical," is the guiding light of what is now known as "liberalism." It argues that individual pursuit of personal profit will result in fulfillment of the general interest, with the market’s "invisible hand" ensuring harmony. Meanwhile Marx, basing himself on a profound analysis of Smith’s work, recognized that capitalism conceived in this way will generate great wealth and stimulate technological development—and in Das Kapital he does not hide his admiration for the system’s promised dynamism. At the same time, however, he saw that it would create terrible inequalities and misery.
In recent times, wealth has polarized even more around a minority and miserable poverty even more around the multitudes, a fact evident both on the global scale and within each nation. So whose vision of the future of capitalism was more accurate? That of Adam Smith, who claimed that the individual pursuit of personal benefit would satisfy the general interest, or that of Karl Marx, whose analysis of the mechanisms of capitalist accumulation led him to envisage a polarization between wealth and misery?
At the end of the Second World War, the Bretton Woods agreements created the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and, a little later, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), now been re-dubbed the World Trade Organization. Thus, the old colonial disorder was extended into what George Bush was later to term the "new world order," with the difference that this colonialism is unified under US direction and the old European colonizers are now vassals.
The destructured economies Market monotheism, this religion that is now exercising its hegemony over the whole world but does not dare speak its name, also has its "church fathers." They include Hobbes, who proclaimed the fundamental competitive dogma that man is a man-eating wolf; Bentham, whose arithmetic of the pleasures defined the profession of faith according to which all value is mercantile and all pleasure measurable through its monetary equivalent; and Malthus, that theorist and upright official of the East India Company, who enunciated the law that population grows more rapidly than does the production of subsistence for it. Although this law has never undergone experimental substantiation, it had the advantage for his company bosses and other colonialists of justifying India’s depopulation at a time when they were destroying local subsistence crops to impose cotton mono-cropping. From Malthus through Kissinger to the Cairo Conference, we have witnessed not the formulation of a universal population law, but rather the postulation of all capitalist and colonialist systems: telling the most needy to have fewer children so that those of us who are satisfied can continue enjoying our exuberance and domination.
of three-fifths of the planet
The "new world order" inspired by this theology differs from the old colonial disorder in the means of domination that it employs. Five centuries of colonialism have destructured three-fifths of the world’s economies, destroying their crops in favor of mono-crops or other mono-productions that prolong the economies of the metropolises while creating a dependence that generates underdevelopment and even hunger. Consequently, a military presence ceases to be required as the sole instrument of domination, except when some grave heresy is committed, such as rejection of the IMF diktats. In most cases economic pressures and sanctions, from the simple withholding of credits to a complete embargo, prove quite enough.
Adjusted, indebted and anesthetizedThe classic procedure is the IMF’s imposition of what are modestly termed "structural adjustments," with components such as freezing wages and freeing up prices while reducing the state’s social budget, thus affecting the schools, hospitals, social institutions and social security of victims of the wage-price squeeze. At the same time, the public investment budget (construction, infrastructure) is untouchable, and the IMF has never demanded the slashing of any military budget.
Still other measures include suppressing production subsidies, a measure that essentially affects the poorest sectors of the population; devaluing the national currency, which leads to increased exports and reduced consumption of national production; and privatizing state companies to guarantee the multinational companies’ control over national economies.
The impossibility of any form of autonomous subsistence in countries whose economies have been destructured by five hundred years of colonization and fifty years of the IMF has so indebted them that just the interest payments on their foreign debt, let alone the principle, are greater than the supposed financial "aid" the rich countries provide. In reality, the poor subsidize the rich in this market monotheism, whose economic expression is totalitarian liberalism. From 1980 to 1990, the standard of living in Latin America and Africa fell by 15% and 20%, respectively.
One corollary of the market economy is "growth." This consists of producing ever more ever faster, regardless of what it is or whether it is useful or useless, or even harmful or deadly. From Coca-Cola to the instruments of senseless culture—music to be played at 120 decibels to anesthetize reflection or the kaleidoscope of television images that flash by at a stupefying rate—the objective is always the same. The ultimate goal of market monotheism is to insert us into the falsest of lives, from Indian hunting in Western movies and Dallas’ money jungle, through all the forms of violence and inhuman behavior displayed in films such as Batman and Terminator, right up to the parable of our regression to the world of the dinosaurs…
Drugs, arms and corruptionLet’s focus on the two most solid pillars of market expansion in recent times: drugs and armaments. The growing drug consumption is another corollary of market monotheism. Figures for the drugs business in the United States today are on a par with those of the automobile and steel industries. Drug use is rising as life loses its sense due to redundancy and marginalization. For others, the only reason to take drugs is to achieve a state of "supermarket happiness." It is very significant that the highest suicide rates correspond to rich countries such as the United States and Sweden. In the South, people die from a lack of means, while in the North it is from the loss of ends.
Armaments, meanwhile, continue to represent the most prosperous industry and have turned the United States into the main world power since the First World War. The Second World War allowed the United States to control half of the planet’s wealth by 1945 and guaranteed the solution to the crisis that began in 1929. Later, the Korean War triggered a new economic boom, while more recently, with the Gulf War, the practical demonstration of mass destruction with the latest sophisticated weapons provided such good publicity that their production has sky-rocketed since the Iraqi massacre.
Still another corollary of market monotheism is corruption. In his book Le capitalisme dans tous ses états (Capitalism in All of Its States), Alain Cotta defines the system’s logic: "The increase in corruption cannot be disassociated from the drive of financial and brokering activities. When during financial operations of all kinds—particularly mergers, takeovers and acquisition bids—certain information offers the chance to amass in a few minutes a fortune that would have been impossible to make through a lifetime’s hard work, the temptation to trade in this information (the anti-corruption ethic) proves irresistible." As the author adds, "The market economy cannot but be favored by the development of this authentic market…. In short, corruption plays a role analogous to that of planning." Nothing could be truer of a system in which everything is bought and sold.
The politics of prostitution Corruption is not the only individual deviation to have turned into a structural law of the system; the same is true of prostitution, with political prostitution the most flagrant example. We have Mubarak entering the Gulf war for US$5 billion; King Fahd, the ruler of a land he calls holy who claims to oppose all infidels, inviting and maintaining tens of thousands of soldiers from the United States and other countries in return for their protection; and Yeltsin selling off his country on the cheap and climbing into bed with the IMF, which paid him back by sending the famous magnate Soros as a qualified expert. These symptoms are characteristic of the decadence of a system in which speculation yields much more than investment in production or in services.
and the casino economy
In today’s system of market monotheism, it is possible to earn forty times more speculating in raw materials, foreign currency or what economists call "derivative products"—all of which affects not the actual payment for the products or services, but the commitments acquired on the future liquidity of fixed-term contracts, exchange rates and other such operations—than producing or providing services. The banks’ primary function, that of collecting money and investing it in production, has been transformed to such an extent that they now use their capital to gamble on the rise and fall of other capital, without serving a real economy. Thus the bank becomes a casino, a parasite of society, where the golden boys bet on the fluctuations of world currency prices and stock exchange quotations.
Preventive genocide: Human sacrificesThe last characteristic of this decadence, this disintegration of the social fabric that results in crime, is charging the least favored with the failure of the system created by the most favored. This was the diabolical invention of Malthus, but it has now been systematized by focusing world problems on the demography of the peoples of the South. The current theorist of this criminal imposture is Henry Kissinger, but he has his precursors. In 1934, in the wake of the great capitalist crisis, Gunnar Myrdal, in his book, Crisis of Demography, proposed "the radical elimination of those individuals not very apt for survival, which can be done through sterilization," which Hitler would later put into practice. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Kissinger proposed it on November 26, 1975, in a "Memorandum on Security Council decision 314 on the implications of world population growth for the national security of the United States and its overseas interests." This document was only "declassified" on June 6, 1990. Today it has become the basis of the US President’s "global future." Document NSSM 200 develops this US vision of the future of the world, stating that "if a country displays good will on the issue of birth limitation, this attitude will be taken into account when it comes to the distribution of food resources." On page 138, NSSM 200 goes even further, by reporting on "controversial but completely successful experiences in India, where, following the attribution of financial advantages, a large number of men have allowed themselves to be sterilized."
This preventative genocide—as UNICEF termed it—has been systematically implemented in the Third World. Thus, market monotheism demands more human sacrifices that any previous religion.
A new religious war is approachingWe are on the way to experiencing a real religious war, not between Christians and Muslims, or believers and non-believers, but between all people of faith—in other words those who believe that life has meaning and that they are responsible for discovering and realizing it—and that other nasty religion, market monotheism, that deprives life of any sense and leads us towards planetary suicide by breaking the world apart.
This necessary insurrection of will and of the human project demands, above all, that we break with the world market as it is conceived today by those who want to impose the universal dominion of the United States. This human insurrection cannot triumph by adopting archaic forms of party politics, nationalisms and particularisms that engender partial explosions of collective selfishness. Nor can it do so through the institutional churches, whether we are talking about the most dominant of dominant churches—the Catholic Church—or Islamism, a disease of Islam, divided among certain leaders who dominate the dominated with a literalism turned ideology. Through its Constantinian nature, the Catholic Church has lost touch with the meaning of Jesus’ insurrection, while religious Islamism masks its de facto adhesion to market monotheism from the multitudes who have been pushed into misery and desperation. Although the churches can form fronts that reject market monotheism, they are incapable of forging a project for the future. A true renaissance—or simple survival—depends on our capacity, removed from any political, ethnic or religious positioning, to create nuclei of resistance against the non-sense facing us and form base communities similar to those created by the Latin American liberation theologies.
Europe has a part to playThe European peoples could lead the way by withdrawing from all of those organizations that are the instruments of our colonization and that of the whole world by the provisional American masters of the planet’s economy and policies. They could break with Maastricht, the World Trade Organization, the IMF and the World Bank, which are devastating the South and the East of the world. The aim would not be for us to retreat into an illusionary nationalism but on the contrary, to gain the freedom to establish radically new relations with the Third World and the rest of the world. Only in this way can we start seeking a new modernity opposed to the reducing modernity of a West defined by the exclusive reign of the market and technology that has made productivity an end in itself. This new modernity would be founded not only on the growth of things, but also on the development of each human being.
It is not enough to cancel the foreign debt. The channeling of aid through governments has to be stopped, whether it is used to acquire armaments to keep the people under their yoke and make them accept the diktats of the IMF and the military dictatorship, or to personally enrich both the donor and beneficiary governments. Aid must be directly provided to the people through contracts with base communities and be earmarked on a case by case basis to precise projects that correspond to the real needs of the community concerned, prioritizing agriculture to ensure that food self-sufficiency is achieved as quickly as possible.
The knights of hope To respond to the needs of the South, eliminate artificial greed and the technologies of death and ensure world survival, it is vital to convert the arms industry and eliminate all forms of publicity, which forms the basis of a system that stimulates desire and manipulates spirits. Stock exchanges should also be radically reformed to exclude the game of short-term trading in hard currency or securities that currently makes it possible to grow forty times richer through speculation than through production or providing services. And finally, there is a need to appraise time worked relative to productivity, to stop scientific advances from creating unemployment and productivity from being an end in itself, to the exclusive benefit of the owners of the means of production.
against the night of decadence
Then and only then, whatever sacrifices this exemplary insurrection demands of the world’s peoples, away from the outmoded distinctions between Left and Right, ethnic origins or religious or philosophical convictions, will human beings be able to reencounter their independence and, more important still, the prestige of being knights of hope against this night of decadence.