Friday, July 11, 2008

The Tao of the Dow: The Market Creeping into the Soul

The triumph of neoliberal market Capitalism since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has colored many aspects of our lives. We have seen a "Coke Day" in a Georgia high school, Oprah Winfrey making a guest appearance on "Colonial House" on PBS, and the allowance of private concessions vendors in the national parks (I worked with them).

With globalization we see intense competition in industrial nations and capitalism becoming Hyper-capitalism. Free trade is entering every aspect of our lives. Now, you would think religion was a hands-off affair. Not so, if you take a look at what is happening in some of our places of worship and in the relgious merchandise catalogs.

Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion by J. Carrette and Richard King deals with the corruption of the spiritual realm by very worldly aims. The authors write:

“What is being sold to us as a radical, trendy, and transformative
spirituality in fact produces little in the way of a significant change in one’s
lifestyle or fundamental behavior patterns (with the possible exception of
motivating the individual to be more efficient and productive at work). By
‘cornering the market’ on spirituality, such trends actually limit the socially
transformative dimension of the religious perspectives…”

“A religion of feel-good affluence reassures the consuming public that religion
can indeed be just another feature of the capitalist world with little or no
social challenge to offer to the world of business deals and corporate
takeovers. Spirituality is appropriated for the market instead of offering a
countervailing social force to the ethos and values of the business world.”

J. Carrette and Richard King, Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, (Routledge, 2005), pages 1, 5-6, 126.

My search for work in advertising led me to a webpage touting advertising as "a spiritual endeavor."

To get slightly off topic (off road without a map), I want to tack on something you readers might find of interest. Do you remember how advertising was once (60's - early 90's) synonymous with selling out, with slickness, with snookering the unsuspecting consumer? I came across a job announcement I dare not put a link to on this post. It said the advertising position required "honest and integrity." The times have changed.

Thanks to Aaron Ghiloni for the book quotes.

Thanks to and (seller) for the photo of the Buddha for $49.95.

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