Charles Eisenstein offers this arresting description of the divine attributes of money in modern culture (Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, xiii-xv):
“The one thing on the planet most closely resembling the . . . conception of the divine is money. It is an invisible, immortal force that surrounds and steers all things, omnipotent and limitless, an ‘invisible hand’ that, it is said, makes the world go ’round. . . . It exists in a realm far removed from materiality. In that realm, it is exempt from nature’s most important laws, but it does not decay and return to the soil as all other things do, but is rather preserved, changeless, in its vaults and computer files, even growing with time thanks to interest.”
When liquidity falters, the world grinds to a halt:
“At this writing , all over the world machines stand idle. Factories have ground to a halt; construction equipment sits derelict in the yard; parks and libraries are closing. . . . Yet all the human and material inputs to build the houses, distribute the food, and run the factories still exist. It is rather something immaterial, that animating spirit, which has fled. What has fled is money. That is the only thing missing, so insubstantial that it can hardly be said to exist at all, yet so powerful that without it, human productivity grinds to a halt.”
The unemployed man “slouched in front of the TV in his undershirt, drinking a beer, hardly able to rise from his chair” – he demonstrates that it is not only machines that lose their spirit without money: “Money, it seems, animates people as well as machines. Without it we are dispirited.”
Curiously, Eisenstein thinks that the solution to this divinization of money is to sacralize it, so as to overcome the “divorce of matter and spirit” that he thinks it the source of the invisible power of Mammon. Sacredness means for him “interrelatedness and uniqueness” and the re-sacralization of money would involve the reunion of money and “the natural matrix that underlies it,” a reunion of “human and nature.” His book is “a vision of a money system and economy” that embodies this sacredness (xviii).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm
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