More Theology of Money discussion

Dave Mesing at Dømmer selv! continues the discussion on Philip Goodchild’s Theology of Money. Anyone who is still catching up or wants to continue the discussion may want to read his post. So far the focus has been on the question of theology’s status in Goodchild’s work.

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Theology of Money – Final Reflections

The summary aspect of our book event ended over the weekend and I feel it was overall a success. I want to thank all those who participated in the book event. There were some interesting thoughts put forward for future work in the comments and I hope that we see some work that builds off of Goodchild’s coming from folks like Clayton and Lissa. I hope that those readers throughout the blogosophere that linked to us over the book event will feel free to use this post to continue any discussion as they digest the method and concepts in Theology of Money. Below you’ll find an index to the individual summaries and Goodchild’s response. Thanks, finally, to Adam, Brad, Lissa, Michael, Alex, Clayton, and Dan for the outstanding job on the summaries.

An index to the posts is provided here:

Again, for those who were unable to keep up with the pace of reading, please feel free to use this post for further discussion.

Theology of Money – Response from Philip Goodchild

Philip Goodchild, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, has been kind enough to write a short response to the book event which you will find below. In the coming days I’ll put together an index of all the posts for future use and perhaps more discussion is to follow. – APS

I want to express my gratitude to all those who have committed so much time to reading, thinking through, and writing about Theology of Money on this blog. I was especially impressed by the work of those who did the chapter summaries. The standard of explication and understanding has uniformly been truly outstanding. One rarely deserves such attentive readers.

Such efforts demand something by way of response, but I felt it important not to comment on the discussion while it was underway, lest my presence should entirely skew the discussion. Even so, I suspect that some of you have felt my presence looking over your shoulder.

The questions and objections raised have been thoughtful, and I now have much to reflect on, but sadly I do not have time to address them all. As for the mischievous pseudonyms, I shall confine myself to one remark: “That’s the disingenuous thing about Goodchild – his pluralism. He wants others’ evaluations to count.” That comment, in and of itself, is truly disingenuous. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

The book is, of course, about money, and the way in which it structures thought, desire, action, environment and trust. It is not about the authorial subject Philip Goodchild, who is himself perhaps something of a pseudonym. After all, those of you who know me will know that I do not normally declaim in a stentorian voice (except when I’m reading from Deuteronomy). The writing of an author is simply a sedimentation of those thoughts that achieve a certain metastable equilibrium, and so become for a while necessary and resilient to questioning. The person who writes, by contrast, has to be continually questioning, looking over one’s shoulder, listening out for what has not yet properly been thought. It is a task that never ends.

Perhaps the most significant matter that my work can pass on to others is not a fresh worldview, but the capacity to pose problems, to hear the voice of alternative perspectives. Perhaps those closest to me are those who will question the most, both myself and themselves. I am grateful for all those who have been attentive to other possibilities of thinking in this discussion. And I do believe that the Conclusion is lacking a parable . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – Conclusion: Of Redemption

Goodchild concludes with a short meditation on how the theology of money affects the task of theology going forward. The result, he affirms, is nothing short of calling for a revolution (258). I appreciated his summation, and think it presents us with a nice schematic:

  • “Does money promise value in such a way that value may be advanced? If so, then any effective theology must do likewise.”

By this, he means the job of theology is not to replace illusion with fantasy. “True meaning” or “final realization of truth,” glory now or glory later, are not its promises. Theology must, rather, be attuned to the immanence of its “situation,” the ecology in which it participates, and from there realize its potential from a fully embodied mode of evaluation. Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 8. A Modest Proposal: Evaluative Credit

Chapter 8 of Theology of Money is a tentative attempt by Goodchild to construct his alternative to the current hegemony of money.

Goodchild begins with a note of caution. The construction and planning of institutions is not something that comes easily to philosophers. While Marx spent much time critiquing the system of capitalism, he spent scant time writing about how his communism society would look like, other than a few fragmentary notes. Philosophers tend towards high levels of abstraction necessary to their craft, that often makes it impossible for them to imagine concrete change. Yet at the same time, certain philosophers have certainly had a major influence upon our economic life, and often a negative one. But this should not prevent us There are, of course, myriad extant proposals about how to change the current capitalist system, but none begin with the critique embodied in the theology of money. Goodchild proposes to sketch a system that begins with his own critique of the credit-money system. Doubtless, this is again a quite complex chapter, so please forgive the length of this description.

Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 7. The Price of Credit

Interrupting the relentless slew of Goodchild’s apodictic statements, this chapter reads as an unexpected interlude, shifting to less direct metaphorical evocation. It is certainly the least cohesive chapter, an odd construction. A “summary” of this chapter, it seems to me, would fail to address its key implications, which are allusive rather than overt. So rather than summarize, I will attempt to draw out certain allusions in relation to the book’s larger themes. Many puzzling and questionable aspects of this chapter will go unremarked, since to focus on shortcomings and oddities here would displace the effort to grasp what is of greatest value.

The “-lude” in interlude has to do with play. Here Goodchild plays with literary implications of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in relation to other legendary “association[s] between money and blood.” He commences with a story of the Franciscan reformer Francis of Paola, who refused a bag of gold offered him by King Ferdinand I because it was the “price of the blood of the king’s subjects” (225). When Francis broke one of the gold pieces to demonstrate his point, several drops of blood fell from the broken coin. Next evoked is Judas Iscariot of the Gospel of Matthew, where John Ruskin’s defense of Judas is cited: “He was horror-struck when he found that Christ would be killed; threw his money away instantly, and hanged himself.” Ruskin asks, how many of our present money-seekers would have the grace to hang themselves? Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 6. Metaphysics & Credit

This chapter is guided by two related questions. The first one is philosophical: “What is the true nature of wealth?” The second one is theological: “What is the source of the value of values?” (201)

In Jesus’s opposition of God to wealth, the former holding that true wealth is modelled on the self-emptying service of Christ and the latter being built on its active participation in systematic exploitation, Goodchild focuses on the power inherent to our systems of evaluation. These systems of evaluation are in league with perspectives borne of our metaphysical commitments.

One forms a perspective expressed in a metaphysics. If one does not turn attention to God, the source of the value of values, then one’s evaluations will be shaped by the world. True power consists here in a perspective. (203)

Goodchild suggests in this chapter that a more thorough reflection of credit problematizes the deeply-set dichotomies that govern our notions of evaluation. When faced with the question of how we spend time, attention, and devotion, the habitus from which our perspectives continually emerge, the modern partitioning of subjective freedom (thought) from its objective actualization (existence), or of value from being from value, is revealed as based in the very illusion it professes to dispel. (I.e., the illusion that it is not a product of its own piety, but rather that of a knowledge underwritten by truth. [206-07]

Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 5. Theology of Money

I apologize for the possibly excessive length of this summary, but I found it to be exceptionally dense.

Accounting

This chapter investigates money “in relation to its mode of representation and the belief that this inspires” (165), beginning with the question of what counts as money. The impossibility of answering this question definitively “testifies to an underlying philosophical problem that emerges from the nature of representation as such” (165), a problem that stems from the fact that money is actually nothing but its own representation. The value money supposedly represent does not exist outside its representation in exchange. There is no outside standard of value, only the constant flux of representations: “Each act of pricing is a guess, an estimate or approximation. Since there is nothing to which it approximates, then pricing is always an act of faith. It is inherently theological” (166).

Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 4. Politics of Money

Goodchild begins this chapter by noting that money is “inseparable from the institution of the market” (123).  What then is this institution that is the market?  He focuses on ways in which the nature of the market may be concealed by its appearance.  There is a fundamental egalitarianism to the market, for any person has the right to participate in it as an “owner of goods” and an “owner of labor,” and to do so as “a free agent capable of entering into voluntary exchanges and contracts” (123).  But this is a pure formal egalitarianism, for the market-subject is an abstraction.  In reality, there are a number of dependencies—material relations, physical existence, and social obligations—that contravene the autonomy of the market-subject.  Similarly, the functioning of the market is not possible apart from “political relations of force,” which ultimately have recourse to “the threat of sovereign power to enforce contracts and to safeguard property” (125).  In short, the market appears to—and, insofar as it is an institution of representation, does—engender freedom and peace precisely as it disavows its dependencies and relies on a foundational violence.  The politics of money is a representational violence.

According to Goodchild, any resistance to this politics of money will have to find—to invent—a new modality.  Protest (at least on its own) fails, for money promises, it responds to and creates desires, and so the negation of protest cannot compete in any sustained manner.  Violent confrontation also fails insofar as it is already conditioned by the politics of money, by which such confrontation obtains the wealth for its military power.  Resistance, at least as it is presently imagined, does not escape the orbit of the politics of money. Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of Money – 3. Ecology of Money

Capital

Goodchild begins by defining capital as “the means of production that has itself been produced.” Money represents capital, but only one form of capital, whereas an ecology of money looks at the relationship between money and other forms of capital. Capital is a form of wealth, and it is not simply human production but also natural production. Here Goodchild goes beyond most philosophers and theologians by refusing to constrain his analysis solely to symbolic and ideal levels. Goodchild demonstrates the fundamental incompatibility between ecology, where the production of capital is tied to finite natural resources and energy flows, and economy, which posits unlimited growth by measuring capital solely in terms of rates of profit. Modern economic activity only measures rates of profit, which defines capitalism, rather than all of the various inputs, natural and human, that produce wealth. Ecology and economy are mathematically incompatible. Read the rest of this entry »

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