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Consuming Religion Chapters 2 and 3

Ricky Rodriguez

on 22 April 2010

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Transcript of Theology

Dual Dynamisms
Of Commodification of Religion The Commodity "Fetish":
The Insatitable Desire for Stuff Abstraction: Only Certain Kinds of Stuff Requires Material, needs content

Interest in material aspects of religion

Media = avenues for commodification Video as a genre

Cost of Assimilation, and changing the nature of raligious traditions


Visual intensity and symbolism have greater appeal in consumer culture The vague theims "from a distance" Equally repsected religious practices? Nondenominational vs Traditional Religions

"Cafeteria" View Joseph Campbell Combined the two dynamic means to de-parochialize the symbolism of a believers tradition Private Religion dismisses doctrine and rules because they are too rigid

rather, traditions should be valued as a source of
"poetic and imaginative imagery" Problems with commodification of religion: 1. A dissolution to the coherence of religion
2. Divorces faith from religion 3. Symbols and beliefs become cultural "free flowing" objects, ready to be put to whatever use 4. Buddhist meditation used as stress management in a capitalistic society devoted to engless aquisitions 5. Yoga is reduced to a physical fitness regimen 6. The crucifix becomes a brand symbol for the niche marketing of Catholic education Overview The materialist details of cultural shifts into capitalism will be better able to guide a response by:
Calling attention to the ways in which the structures of everyday life form in us certain ethically, politically, and religiously significant behaviors
Providing a map of the places where such unwitting formation is taking place so that such influences may be more consciously resisted
Looking into the single-family home and seeing how this institution transforms our relationship with cultural traditions.
Marxism and the Post-Fordist era.
Productivist The productivist theoretical approach to consumerism deals with the practice of consumption as an effect of the economic system of production in which it takes place. This theory is in danger of being one sided in that it reduces the complexities of human culture to a reflex or superstructure of the economy.
This theory of thought gives great consideration to the interests of manufacturers, the wiles of marketers, and the increasing variety of things that can be bought and sold. This theory lends itself to fall under the heading of alienation.
Alienation Term that is associated with Marx:
Alienation is a consequence of capitalism that separates men and women from their creative power as human beings.
Driven by two economic factors:

Objectification Estrangement
Objectification deals with the legal status of the goods that workers produce. In pre-industrial economies, craftsmen owned the work they produced. However, in the capitalist system, the product of the worker’s labor belongs not to the laborer, but to the employer.
Estrangement deals with the separation of workers from the self-realization in their labor. Because they do not own the products of their labor, the relation between effort and creativity is destroyed.
The dynamics of alienation combine to create consumption in two ways: a wage system of labor and the alienation of labor which is undertaken only to fulfill the worker’s needs for survival. Marx argues that this erodes the nobility of human needs and reduces them to animalistic desires.
The Commodity Fetish Marx understood commodities upon a distinction between “use value” and “exchange value”.
Use value- like a table, it is made from value and its use is to hold items at the proper height. When an object is evaluated according to its use value, there is a fundamental continuity between the object (its social function) and its appearance. This continuity is ruptured when the object is produced for exchange.
Exchange value- the commodity’s value depends on its use value and the economic system that produces it which includes the labor that produced it. These sources of value do not appear in the commodity and are obscured by an aura of self-evident value. Exchange value is real value, but it only exists within the system that makes exchange possible.
The obscuring aura of self-evidency is what Marx terms as the Commodity Fetish. This can be seen in the Y2K fiasco where some people withdrew all their money when they thought the banks were going to be shut down.
The Taylor and Fordist Revolutions Frederick Taylor’s revolution involved removing all brain work from the shop in order to increase production and to prevent the worker from exploiting his knowledge against the employer should he discover an innovative labor-saving procedure. After Taylor’s revolution, the engineer became the great administrator of knowledge and resulted in the progressive intellectual impoverishment of industrial workers.
Taylor worked with efficiency in a way to find workers who possessed both physical strength and interest in money enough so that they would abandon traditional work practices.
Henry Ford found success by applying Taylor’s system of labor management with the technological advancements of the production line. This resulted in a new form of labor relations that made labor and management partners in maintaining the stability of the workplace. The production line also further fragmented and deskilled the laborer.
These revolutions lead to the idea of consumption being the economic complement to production.
The Single Family Home The single family home calls attention to the correlation between the greater extraction of workers’ energy during the day with the decline of the homestead as a place of production This leads to the nuclear family depending on wages to support a consumption-centered lifestyle. Appliances that are bought replace the labor that the extended family once produced.
Central heating is a good metaphor to explain how the replacement of the hearth with central heating describes the degradation of our society by technology and the era of consumption. No longer do people go out and chop wood for their warmth. Central heating replaces the need to keep a woodpile with the need to just turn a switch. This marks a significant change in families gathering together around the hearth and instead being able to stay in their own independent rooms with central heating.
The Consumer Self
And Religious Traditions
The Theraputic Self Contemporary religion has been transformed into a narcissitic, theraputic enterprise "Seekers" who lack allegiance to a specific religion or community Salvation is no longer a focus The emergence of the theraputic sensability is best understood in the context and rise of consumer capitalism

Advertising = essential factor in:
continued vitality of the theraputic ethos
Exploitation of human insecurity

created an atmosphere in which every aspect of the anxious self was subject to rutless surveillance Decline of Religious Monopolies Secularization Decline in the social and cultural power of religious institutions Modernity --> Post Modernity Deregulation Thesis Religious Celebrities Dalai Lama

Mother Teresa

John Paul II The Catholic Church and the Media Modern media = means of spreading gospel message The "culture" of the media No sacraments on the internet Deregulation Post-Fordism Economic Crisis of the 1970’s
Flexibility Expansion vs. Intensification
Hardware vs. Software, Channel vs. Content
Culture as a Niche in the Market
Freedom to Choose Culture and Religion
Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle Also influenced by Marxism, but more Radical
“Having to appear”
The Spectacle: “A Permanent Opium War”
Final Solution: War on The Spectacle
Jean Baudrillard and Simulation From Dissimulation to Simulation
The Sign Economy
Behind it all: The Media
Fredric Jameson: The Cultural Logic of Advanced Capitalism Postmodernism Jameson as a Reductionist
“Deepless” Aesthetics and Symbols
Overthrow of Culture
Abstraction of Products from their Production
Consumer Schizophrenia
Henri Lefebvre: “Everyday Life” in the Modern World Marxism and life between Provencal France and Paris
“Everyday Life”
Yesterday’s “Style” vs. today’s “No-Style”
Advertisement: “The Realm of Make Believe”
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