Fighting the Church

I was reading Georgio Agamben on my long flight to New York, and I had to think about the infallibility of our banks. I am very far away from occupying Wall Street any time soon, I have no problem navigating the new religious order most of the time. But my father always said that if the state or the banks want your money, they will find a way to take it.

In order to understand what is taking place, we have to interpret Walter Benjamin’s idea that capitalism is really a religion literally, the most fierce, implacable and irrational religion that has ever existed because it recognizes neither truces nor redemption. A permanent worship is celebrated in its name, a worship whose liturgy is labor and its object, money. God did not die; he was transformed into money. The Bank—with its faceless drones, delirious traders, and its finance-structure experts—has taken the place of the church with its priests, and by its command over credit (even the granting of tax certificates, which has enabled the state to blithely abdicated its sovereignty), manipulates and manages the faith—the scarce and uncertain faith—that still remains to it in our time.

The claim that today’s capitalism is a religion is most effectively demonstrated by the headlines appearing on the front pages of major national newspapers these days: “Save the Euro Regardless of the Cost”. Well, “salvation” is a religious concept, but what does “regardless of the cost” mean? Even at the cost of sacrificing human lives? Only within a religious perspective (or, more correctly, a pseudo-religious perspective) could one make such plainly absurd and inhuman statements.

We need to save our banks because we need banks, we need to maintain our system because we are not anarchists, but we need to remember that it’s an ecosystem that serves us all.