Jul 20, 2011

A sketch of an idea re: religion-marketplace intermediation

Religion is where people make meaning – a definitional claim.

Market activities need meaning.
e.g. work is meaningless for Weber’s menial laborer, who is then not a good worker

Q. Why do you buy something that’s expensive?
Q. Why do you buy something that’s cheap?
(See how the answer uses terminology that’s not strictly economic.)

Religion is used for this (Wurthnow on Weber).

a) Wal-Mart’s use of the language of “service” and “servant leadership” sanctifies menial work (Moreton)
b) Wal-Mart’s use of the language of “value” sanctifies shopping.

Thus: “Market” is modified/mediated/filtered through religion. It wears the clothing of religious language.

This can empower and invigorate a market.

This can modify, limit and reshape a market.

This can give articulations to anxieties, raise awareness of possible conflicts.

But – this only happens re: the anxieties we actually have, and felt meaninglessness. Very little broad critique, deep thinking, or theory.

But – the religion(s) that modify and mediate also internalize market logic, means of measurement.

Religion is understood (perhaps rightly, but certainly persuasively) as a market. E.g., “success” = market share. Growth is good.

Example – Church dying/for sale
Example – Beatles “bigger than Jesus” and how that measurment made sense.

Markets are the framework for all of our thinking about what “works” re: religion.

Thus: Religion is modified/mediated/filtered by market thinking, and market is modified/mediated/filtered through religion.

2) Large parts of meaningful personal identity are mediated by market

ID = meaning in world, position towards world.

ID = esp. choice.

a) Static fact, e.g., “I am white,” has little meaning by itself, but how I accessorize makes my whiteness meaningful. E.g. what music do I listen to?
b) Choices available to me are market choices (consumption); personal meaning/ID is also limited to my market choices. E.g. free trade coffee (VIDEO).
c) This is the importance of Jesus junk – “Jesus” is now a consumer ID, and I can take on that ID.
ID is made by participation/consumption.

Example –  Consumption of communion host: I am in you and you are in me.
Example –  Consumption of McD. burger: I am loving it.

What we’re talking about: semiotic meaningfulness in the world, which is made meaningful by choice, which is the substance of markets.

Thus: markets are where personal meaning is made.

But – making meaning is religious.

Thus: The market is religious.