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Friday, February 22, 2008

Carnegie to Zizek

In the Australian Financial Review, in a review of Violence by Slavoj Zizek (Review:5), this quote: "He quotes Elton John to elucidate the conflict between social Darwinism and Christianity."

Now, why would there be a conflict between s-d and Christianity?

Some of the quotes below might give a hint. They are from a recent article on economic oppression.

"Carnegie (the 19th C US steel maker) stated in his autobiography that when he and several of his friends came to doubt the teachings of the Bible,

‘… including the supernatural element, and indeed the whole scheme of salvation through vicarious atonement and all the fabric built upon it, I came fortunately upon Darwin’s and Spencer’s works … . I remember that light came as in a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution. “All is well since all grows better” became my [laissez-faire] motto, my true source of comfort. Man was not created with an instinct for his own degradation, but from the lower he had risen to the higher forms. Nor is there any conceivable end to his march to perfection.’ "

Carnegie, A., Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie (1920), edited Van Dyke, J.C., reprint, Northeastern University Press, Boston, p. 327, 1986

Another quote in the same article:

"Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb noted that Darwinism was accepted rapidly in England (but was resisted for decades in France) in part because it justified the greed of the robber barons.

‘The theory of natural selection, it is said, could only have originated in England, because only laissez-faire England provided the atomistic, egotistic mentality necessary to its conception. Only there could Darwin have blandly assumed that the basic unit was the individual, the basic instinct self-interest, and the basic activity struggle. Spengler, describing the Origin as “the application of economics to biology”, said that it reeked of the atmosphere of the English factory … natural selection arose … in England because it was a perfect expression of Victorian “greed-philosophy”, of the capitalist ethic and Manchester economics.’

Milner noted that applying social Darwinism to the capitalism that was common among American businessmen elevated the

‘… traditional virtues of self-reliance, thrift and industry to the level of “natural law”. Based more on the writings of Herbert Spencer than of Charles Darwin, its proponents urged laissez-faire economic policies to weed out the unfit, inefficient and incompetent. "

Not only interesting in its own right, but, Himmelfarb's suggestion that ideas that are taken be some today (for example, the SADists) as being 'scientific' have their founations in the accidents of culture!

So what gospel hope can the SADists bring to a world full of suffering, when the social suffering (about a million a year were affected by industrial accidents in the 19th C in the US) is woven into reality, and not a fall from what was created as truly good? They have melded evil with good and so have no real voice when it comes to standing for the gospel against materialism, because, from the outset, they agree that materialism truly explains the world as it is!

But it doesn't, of course. Materialism's posturing grinds to a halt when confronted by the history of destruction over the earth (the flood) and the mind-boggling complexity of life, for which it provides no explanation (posturing aside, of course).

2 comments:

Ktisophilos said...

"Robber baron" is something of a myth, like Darwinism. Many of them were not barons, in that they were born poor. And many didn't rob anyone, but worked out ways of producing high quality goods at low costs so more people could benefit from them. And they donated huge amounts to charity. These were the market entrepreneurs.

There was another class who were more political entrepreneurs. They relied on an unholy alliance with government, receiving subsidies coerced from taxpayers and restrictions on competition. This resulted in expensive, poor quality goods, such as the US Postal service.

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