2218. Merry Christmas and the history of economics.

Provocation 277.

From Adam Smith through the intense 1880’s  to the  1920′ almost all  economic writing was  in the context of Christianity and god’s project on earth. Writers on corporate structure and the psychology of management were explicitly discussing god and Jesus as the path to the future of which they and the managers (and owners) were the custodians. the path to Eden or Paradise.  The  word economy for the Greeks,  estate management, became,, in the new testament,  god’s dominion and its management. Economists took it for granted that they were discussing what to do with the earth in the context of a Christianity that made each worker  manifesting God’s project.  (it isn’t us capitalists that insist on your work, it is God). Not  the earth as known  to modern  perspectives, but with god’s earth.  Those who in recent decades have written about the history of economics think that the modern reader – and they themselves – are not interested in this side of history. 

The recent book by Mccarraher,  The Enchantments of Mammon: how economics became  religion of Modernity is  a powerful and extremely helpful exception  There is an  INET  podcast with him at https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/podcasts/eugene-mccarraher-the-religion-of-capitalism

Th reason this is so important now is because this thinking created the idea of the economy as a domain, a realm, with it systematic integrity as par t of but not equivalent to society as a shole. If we want to change economics now it helps if we understand the glue  that conceptually holds it together as a system owned by some but not by all, subject to property relations but not to democracy.

This atmospheric  feel for the earth as a Christian project, , a kind of halo,  gave comfort, in those decades before the depression,  that  we humans knew what we were doing.  But as the belief system has faded and , we are left without a belief system that guides our economic project. 

 The earth now is just a hunk if material with chemical and gravitational properties , not ethical ones. our loyalties  and our efforts, we owe to a humanized god.

The fact that we are celebrating Christmas more than the solstice shows how powerful the residuals is, but not enough to give guidance as to goals and ways of acting in the grand cycle of exploitation, production,  consumption and trash.

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