Monergocapitalism and the Diminution of the Human Spirit

Of the many pathologies which afflict the modern Western world, one of the most pernicious is the soullessness of Western economic life.  The essence of modernity, from an economic point of view, is to work for a repetitive eight hours a day so we can then go home and sit in front of a television for eight more, or else go out to the mall and buy useless junk that we don’t really need.  Many in our societies recognise this problem, but feel powerless to do anything about  it.  We feel locked in, chained to a system which maximises “economic growth” and minimises our humanity. We have no choice but to feed the relentless machine of “progress” by offering ourselves as sacrifices to the great god Mammon.

Modern Western man finds himself in the grip of monergocapitalism – the inexorable, undivided will of the economic imperative.  Many may be familiar with the Calvinistic theological position of monergism, which essentially posits that God will work through His Holy Spirit to bring about the regeneration of individuals whom He chooses, regardless of their actual cooperation with Him.  The term comes from the Greek mono (“one, single”) + ergon (“to work”).  Essentially, God’s action AND will alone (as it is often applied) are involved in the theological process of salvation.  By analogy, economic monergocapitalism follows the same line – the only acts and will that matter are those of the capitalist imperative, the “invisible hand” that drives all transactions, all goals, all desires, all purposes.  All economic life is ever more centralised, ever more monopolistic, ever more fitted into the same mold.  To attempt to hinder in any way the progress of this economic imperative is to be a regressive, to be a heretic and a reprobate.  Everything must be subsumed under the economic will, even the very essence of human life itself.  We in the West have indeed reached the point where the human body itself, even that of the unborn child, is subject to dismantlement and sale to the highest bidder.  Likewise with the human soul, captured by the vapid entertainments and propaganda of a society which enslaves the mind to the plasma screen TV.

What we see going on with respect to this monergocapitalism is an extension of the larger and more overall tyranny over mankind of “technique” which was discussed by Jacques Ellul in his book The Technological Society.  In it, he discusses the role which technique (which extends far beyond mere machine technology) and its advancement plays in dominating human society ever more thoroughly.  Technique is, essentially, any means by which any realm of the human life is regulated, systematised, and organised in what we might call “inorganic” ways.  Mankind has always had technology and methods of organising his life, and had even had fitful starts at systematic science.  However, it is only since the late 18th century (i.e. coinciding with the full efflorescence of “Enlightenment” thought) that human industry and life began to be dominated by “technique” in such a way that “progress” became formalised as a social aim and the function of economic competition became enshrined as the single acceptable driving force in society, with all others such as religion and morality being shunted to the side as “not useful.”  Both man and machines were subordinated to the drive for economic improvement and advancement.

Ellul notes the descent of man from being a creature who uses technique to being a creature used by technique, as enterprise, production, distribution, and even consumption gradually transitioned from being merely technological, to being completely organised and commanded by economic compulsions,

This phase of development was still dominated by the machine, and corresponded to what Mumford has called the paleotechnical period.  During this period the instruments of the power mentality developed.  It became apparent that mechanical improvements alone do not suffice to yield socially valuable results.  This was clearly a period of transition in which inventions had not yet completely overthrown the older institutions.  And they had not yet touched human life, except indirectly.  It was a period of disorder.  And the most glaring manifestation of this disorder was man’s exploitation of man.  This disorder, however, led to a strenuous search for order, which developed first in the economic field.  For some time it had been possible to believe that the increasing flow of merchandise would be absorbed automatically.  But the illusion of liberalism collapsed very quickly.  Little by little, the liberal system broke down before the profusion of goods which the machines blindly poured forth.  It was inescapable that only technical methods of distribution would be able to cope with problems created  by technical methods of production.  There was no way around it.  A mechanism of distribution and consumption was necessary, as precise as the mechanism of production, which itself was not yet sufficiently precise, merely because it was mechanical.  It was imperative that the different parts of the productive mechanism be adjusted and that the goods produced correspond exactly to the need, in quantity as well as in quality.  It was no longer sufficient to organize enterprise.  The entire production had to be organised in all its details.  And if production were completely organized, there could be no question of allowing consumption (which had, in the meantime, become mechanized) to operate without its own world-wide organization.  These logical interactions, which emerged first on the national level, were soon found on the international level as well.” (Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, p. 114)

As a consequence of the inexorable application of technique to the economic life, man himself became a hindrance to the march of progress due to man’s imperfection and tendency toward other goals and ideals besides the merely economic.  As such, technique operating for monergocapitalistic good seeks to minimise the role of humanity in the process of economic activity – crudely seen in the phenomenon of robots replacing workers, seen in a more refined way in the ruthless subordination of every aspect of the human being to the economic regulation of ever-evolving technique.  Man becomes the servant, rather than the master, in his relationship to the economic life.  The human actor is reduced to merely being a cog in the great conceptual machine called “economic growth.”

The terrible outgrowth of this process, of course, is that the perceived worth of the human spirit is greatly diminished, if not completely devalued.  The only thing that matters is what will advance technique, which will make the process of economic growth and refinement more efficient.  The conflict between the monergistic will of economic utility and the organic will of the well-rounded human life must be implacably and mercilessly resolved in favour of the former.  Where man acts in ways that are anything less then perfectly economically efficient, he is wasting resources, wasting time, and is a drag on the system.  His morality, his ethics – these are merely obstacles to perfect efficiency and the augmentation of the profit margin.  He must either be subordinated or be cast aside.

To go one step further, technical autonomy is apparent in respect to morality and spiritual values.  Technique tolerates no judgment from without and accepts no limitation.  It is by virtue of technique rather than science that the great principle has become established: chacun chez soi.  Morality judges moral problems; as far as technical problems are concerned, it has nothing to say.  Only technical criteria are relevant.  Technique, in sitting in judgment on itself, is clearly freed from this principle obstacle to human action…

 

This same phenomenon is evident in yet another area in which technical autonomy asserts itself: the relations between techniques and man.  We have already seen, in connection with technical self-augmentation, that technique pursues its own course more and more independently of man.  This means that man participates less and less actively in technical creation, which, by the automatic combination of prior elements, becomes a kind of fate.  Man is reduced to the level of a catalyst.  Better still, he resembles a slug inserted into a slot machine: he starts the operation without participating in it.

 

But this autonomy with respect to man goes much further.  To the degree that technique must attain its results with mathematical precision, it has for its object the elimination of all human variability and elasticity.  It is a commonplace to say that the machine replaces the human being.  but it replaces him to a greater degree than has been believed.” (ibid., pp. 134-135)

Ellul treats the triumph and continued dominance of technique as ineluctable.  Yet, I do not think that it must be.  I am optimistic where he was pessimistic (though he would have called himself “realistic,” of course).  We can choose to reject the domination of technique, even though the price and penalty for this rejection may well be (at least for the time being) rendering ourselves incompatible with the prevailing economic imperative that has Western societies in its stranglehold.  It is this seemingly universal influence of the modernistic emphasis on the economic and the secular (in the fullest sense of that term) which convinced many of the impossibility of resisting this trend and which leads to the despair felt by many sensitive and humane souls in our civilisation.  We have become so convinced of the “progressive” assumption of an “arc of history” relentless bending towards a final “end of history” characterised by a complete subordination of the human spirit to the socio-economic machine that we can barely conceive that there might be alternatives.  Yet, there are, and we must gather the strength of will to oppose the will of monergocapitalistic technique and to find these alternatives.

How do we free our minds and go about resisting the will of a seemingly all-powerful economic god?

Let us begin by observing that there is a difference between what I’m calling “monergocapitalism” here (though often just called “capitalism” by certain libertarians and other who focus on the importance of economics above all else) and the principle of “the free market.”  These two concepts are not the same.  Monergocapitalism is a technical matter, an issue of process and organisation that imposes itself on all matrices it touches.  The free market, on the other hand, is a moral matter dealing with ethical and natural rights and responsibilities pertaining to how individuals and communities utilise the resources placed into their hands.  As such, by definition monergocapitalism, with its ineluctable drive toward total dominion over all economic activity and actors, cannot be said to be “free” (just as theological monergism patently excludes free will).  When the irresistible force of the “invisible hand” requires you to become ever more efficient, ever more robotic, ever less human in your interaction with the economic, when it leaves you no room to operate within an alternative system of morals and values lest your enterprise fail because of its “inefficiency,” you are no longer a free actor operating on a free market.

As such, the Right would do well to reconsider its unthinking cheerleading for “capitalism” as a driving force in society, regardless of its effects on society.  The simple utilitarian fact of “more consumer goods at a lower price” or whatever other metric one might wish to use does not need to be, and should not be, the sole determining factor in the rightness of an economic system.

The dichotomy often drawn between “capitalism” and “socialism/communism” is a false one.  There is a third way, and one which deserves to be fleshed out in much greater detail: Distributism.  Distributism, in theory at least, seeks to disperse both property ownership and the means of production as broadly as possible.  This economic philosophy was advanced by Chesterton, Belloc, and others as a means of avoiding the extremes of both state socialism and monopolistic capitalism, and sought to restore more traditional agrarian and propertarian themes, as well as the encouragement of class consonance through the renovation of the guild system.  Within a distributist system, the emphasis of economic activity would not be on the maximisation of profit at the expense of moral, ethical, and communitarian concerns.  Rather, the system would act to maximise human relationships and quality of life within the family and the community.  Chesterton once said, “To give nearly everybody ordinary houses would please nearly everybody; that is what I assert without apology.”  Distributism would sustain the rights and responsibility of the individual in the economic sphere, while avoiding the false sovereignty of the economic imperative.

We must be willing to go further and reject exactly this imperative.  One of the principle criticisms I would have of libertarianism and so-called “economic conservatism” (using the American terminology) is the assumption that economic concerns are the only concerns, that matters of economic efficiency, profit maximisation, increasing the GDP, and the absolute autonomy of the individual economic actor take primacy over everything else.  Those of us in Tradition and neoreaction must renounce this attitude once and for all.  While giving matters of economics and production their fit place within the greater constellation of human activities and needs, we must focus on the quest to once again regain the things that enlarge and embolden the human spirit, those very things which libertarians and economic conservatives often dismiss as “useless.”  We must return to faith and religion as a font of morality and as a source for the organisation of the deeper life.  We must pursue a genuine broad-based education which teaches not merely facts, but how to think, reason, and create; which does not merely prepare someone to “fulfill an economic role,” but to be a well-rounded human being.  We must regain again those higher traits of loyalty (both personal and social), of community, of nobility.  We must seek to reverse the mechanisation and atomisation of human life which modern monergocapitalism has wrought in the Western world.

If Tradition and neoreaction are to be serious about seeking a return to a better, more enduring society, then we must assiduously work to undermine the implicit assumptions – such as the primacy of the economic imperative – upon which modernistic civilisation rests.  Further, we must seek not merely a return to ancient forms.  We must aim to recapture the ancient spirit and mindset which filled those forms.  Our return cannot merely be one that produces empty shells which only look superficially like the good things from the past.  Instead, we must seek to replace modernity with a living, breathing, all-encompassing fullness of life that looks beyond the mere economic and technical.

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25 thoughts on “Monergocapitalism and the Diminution of the Human Spirit

  1. A system constructed upon an unrealistic notion of the human nature is bound to fail. A return/implementation of a distributive system would be completely anti-natural.
    The distributive system assumes an equal willingness to work and contribute to the common good that is foreign to the human being as a whole, even in a highly moral society. The system presupposes a conformity with the good instead of the striving for the best in every member of the community. Otherwise, there is no way to avoid a successful guild to become a capitalist enterprise, for example. Remember that, unless we become true Luddites, the technological progress is a variable we have to contend with in our future society, a good thing in itself.
    The economic aspect of human interaction should not be valued above and in the detriment of the other interactions, nor should it be undervalued under the guise of a just and humanitarian system.

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    1. Hi Cristina,

      Thanks for dropping by!

      I’m not sure that these would really be the case. The point to a distributive system is not the sort of communistic system you seem to be describing (“equal willingness to work and contribute to the common good”). In function, a distributive system is still essentially a “free market” system, only it is not a “capitalistic” system in the sense of amassing capital into the hands of a few for the purpose of establishing/maintaining a primarily wage-earning labour structure. Instead, it “distributes” resources broadly into the hands of many smallholders, allowing each to provide for themselves. Of course, if they squander the opportunity, then the market forces will still allow them to fail. I don’t really see this as “undervaluing” the economic, but merely putting it in its proper sphere.

      While it is “natural” for those who begin to succeed at centralising wealth and property into their own hands to want to continue to do so, it is also “natural” for the “little people” to want to have land of their own, without being “centralised” in the process. Both are natural, but only one is righteous or humane. Between the two, God’s choice would seem to be a distributive system (see e.g. Isaiah 5:8)

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      1. Hi, Titus.

        Regarding a distributive system, you are assuming that most people want to provide for themselves by owning their means of production (land, tools, etc). I don’t see this as self-evident. This system can be maintained only by force in an industrial and technological environment.
        I embrace the notion that man is more than the economy, how could I not? However, the highly moral society we aspire to will still function around the economic interactions you decry. That is an objective fact, unchangeable as all of them are. If we lose track of the objective reality, we will build a dystopia.

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      2. Hi Cristina,

        Thanks again for your comments! I apologise for not responding sooner. The past month and a half have been…interesting…and have contributed to a general slowdown of my online activity across the board. Hoping to start getting back into the saddle soon.

        “Regarding a distributive system, you are assuming that most people want to provide for themselves by owning their means of production (land, tools, etc). I don’t see this as self-evident. This system can be maintained only by force in an industrial and technological environment.”

        I believe that we can rightly say that most people *in a system which was not a cradle-to-grave welfare state* would have at least some interest in providing for themselves. I will grant that a completely distributivist system is probably not likely in a fully industrialised setting, but this is because of the intricacies of the specialisation of labour and the efficiencies of technique that are involved. I.e. when you have a fully industrial system, you both have highly efficient agriculture (so most people don’t *need* to produce food, and employing them all in it would would produce huge amounts of food, but nothing else that is needed to sustain an industrial society) and the need for labour to perform all kinds of “technical” functions. Machines don’t fix or run themselves, or at least they don’t yet… I don’t see the obstacle to a distributivist system as being a lack of at least some innate desire on the part of most people to have greater control of their own economic destinies. This desire is what drove the flight to the suburbs (that, and inner city crime..but even that motive is an indicator of seeking to escape to a better economic situation), and is also what drives many of the “back to the land” efforts on both Left and Right. It’s why people garden. It’s why people learn trade skills like mechanics or home repair that they’re never going to use in a commercial setting. The desire is there on the part of the non-welfare-addled, but is still in mostly an incipient form. It’s a “I wish I could maybe do that” stage right now.

        A movement away from monergocapitalism and toward distributism WOULD require a lessening of industrial efficiency and the consequent loosening of the iron grip of technique on modern life. I don’t see that this would require force, other than perhaps to require people to stop sucking off the efforts of others and force them to fend for themselves more. In one sense, distributism is a rather populistic-libertarian economic philosophy. It rejects centralisation and homogenisation in the economic life (which comes with big business and the marriage of state with corporate enterprise, which many big- and little-l libertarians support, for seemingly self-contradictory reasons) while maintaining the “make my own way” mentality that characterises the traditional Western bent towards individualism.

        “I embrace the notion that man is more than the economy, how could I not? However, the highly moral society we aspire to will still function around the economic interactions you decry. That is an objective fact, unchangeable as all of them are. If we lose track of the objective reality, we will build a dystopia.”

        I’m not so sure that that’s really an objective fact. Indeed, in many ways it seems to me to be contradicted by the empirical evidences we see in the West today. The more and more centralised, bureaucratised, and economised we’ve become, the further and further away from a moral society we get. This is because of the inexorable effect which the the more highly exclusive focus on the material has on moral concerns. When efficiency becomes key, and production and distribution of consumer goods becomes the highest goal (which is the end result of what we’re talking about here), anything that gets in the way of that – such as religious objections to the underpinning philosophical materialism, objections to certain goods being produced, etc. – will come to be viewed as “bad.” That’s what we’re seeing today. In many ways neoreaction, and even the broader alt-Right, represents an opposition to that way of thinking. Even something as simple as the NRx/A-R opposition to porn stands in this form – technocratic/materialistic society misdirects legitimate libertarian impulses into the direction of “if it feels good, do it” and thus condemned religious/moral/ethical opposition to porn, since allowing religion and morals to interfere in the free exercise of monergocapitalism in one area let’s the Bible through the door to interfere in other areas.

        Primarily, a move toward distributism wouldn’t be a negation of modern technology or technique, and hence wouldn’t eliminate modern economic interactions. If anything, it would apply a more genuinely libertarianesque approach to economics that would decentralise the system. I don’t see this as moving towards any kind of dystopia, however.

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  2. I personally agree with almost all of the Libertarian critique of the unsustainably overbearing presence of the State in economic life, which in swaddling every economic actor in bands of red tape dangerously retards growth and also cannot help but give rise to various forms of rent-seeking and cronyism. But what I can’t abide is the way Libertarians make a fake religion of the idea of the free market, as though utility-maximizing rational economic action were the highest ethical expression of human freedom, and making money the last end of Man. Commerce is not sacred, and to imagine that it is makes for both bad religion and bad capitalism. Capitalism is not a religion, but something that, all its truly great historic proponents agreed, in order to be successfully institutionalized needs to be buttressed *by* religion- which means recognizing different spheres of human action and corresponding types of action. (Libertarianism believes that *all* human action is economic, and *every* activity a type of market activity- an ironically totalitarian worldview).

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    1. Hi DS, thanks for dropping by!

      Agreed with your comments above. Commerce = good. Commerce as a religious observation = bad. I would add, Commerce as an all-encompassing objective that not merely subordinates but eliminates all other factors in life = worst of all.

      Ellul’s book is eye-opening and quite depressing. I made the application to capitalism and how it comes to control so that its will alone prevails, but Ellul noted that ALL areas of life come to be dominated in the same way by technique in every area. Almost makes one want to give the Unabomber a second look…

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  3. This is probably one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read; ever. I too am tired of economism as the only thing, literally the only thing, that matters or should matter. It is insane as well as ridiculous.

    Bravo Neociceronian!

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      1. And who could blame you, I felt like Durden while reading it, lol! Seriously though, it is a very important post, we need to rid ourselves of the notion that whatever we do throughout the day ‘must’ somehow be ‘useful’ (read: make money). We are under complete and utter economism; it is amazingly unhealthy, not to mention irritating. Kudos again.

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  4. Eloquently put as usual. Your writing style is superb.

    I entirely agree with the spirit of distributism. Humans are designed and evolved for certain patterns of life that free trade capitalism destroys. We need to support organic communities and the means to sustain them. I agree and disagree with your criticism of the following:

    “The only thing that matters is what will advance technique, which will make the process of economic growth and refinement more efficient.”

    I believe that it is in the best interests of the nation that production is automated–not shipped overseas. The most realistic solution seems to be a basic income system and economic nationalism. Keep jobs at home while making the means to do them more efficient. Basic income helps people survive, who can then choose to supplement their livelihoods.

    I don’t see manufacturing going away to usher in a pastoral golden age. Anyone who needs medicine or technology to survive wouldn’t want it to. I believe the combination I suggested preserves the intent of distributism while acknowledging our industrial reality.

    https://fartherright.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/finland-dutifully-provides-for-displaced-blue-collar-workforce/

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    1. Hi ER, thanks for dropping by! Sorry for taking so long to reply. As I told Cristina above, the past month and a half have been…rough…on my ability to do much more online than throw out a some quick tweets.

      Great blog post, btw, I am going to shoot it out on Twitter today and will save it for future reference.

      The radical Libertarians simply don’t grok that workers are not interchangeable cogs. When a guy loses his job in a textile factory, you can’t just fit him into a banking or paralegal job. Contracting (or automating) your native industrial base cannot simply be taken care of by increasing the size of your service sector or by bureaucratising your state apparatus.

      Economically, soft libertarianism (i.e., the “self-sufficiency impulse”) has some merit, but the hard libertarian “laissez-faire at all costs” mentality does not. Distributism would seem to be a move towards the former away from the latter. It’s also quite possible that distributism at the community and homestead level could be coupled with some form of syndicalist approach in the industrial sector. More worker control, but lessening outright state domination of the means of production, and all that.

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      1. Thanks for the recommendation, man. Yeah. Noblesse oblige demands that we consider the needs and abilities of everyone in a society. Libertarians sometimes dip into this Social Darwinism mindset that really hamstrings their legitimacy.

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      2. You’re welcome, ER!

        Yes – a return to the sort of “obligations based society” (implicit in the term “noblesse oblige”) and away from the blunt force contractual model would be a welcome change. People do what they’re supposed to do out of a sense of duty and right order, rather than because they might get sued if they don’t. Can’t say I see a downside to that.

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  5. Titus, thanks for your reply. Busy end of the year around here.
    I see the Distributist position is an egalitarian, anti-hierarchical notion incompatible with natural law.
    No, not everyone wants to provide for themselves the way you implied. I know this first hand from the experience of my family when we tried to distribute an agrarian property among our tenants. Almost all of them agreed it was in their best interest that the owner, my father, kept taking care of the risks and supplies, and they just taking care of the direct work of the farms. They didn’t want to be the owners of the land!
    Another point that would need elucidation is what and how to distribute. We’d necessarily have to dispossess somebody of his property to give it to someone else. Do you see the error?
    I do think the lessening of industrial efficiency (more work for the same result) would require force indeed. I see it as utopic and unreasonable. The whole idea reeks to government (elitist) voluntarism antithetical to true human freedom and dignity.
    Regarding the moral society and a juster economic balance, I’d dare to recommend to you the Encyclicals Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII and Quadragesimo Anno by Pope Pius XI, documents strangely loved by Distributists of all ages and stripes. Sure, I’m referring to the whole documents and not just convenient excerpts from here and there.

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    1. Hi Cristina, thanks again for dropping by, I enjoy your comments.

      I’m not so sure how against natural law distributism really is. Let’s remember – what makes natural law “natural” is the fact that it agrees with the law of God, and hence exists in accord with the plan and pattern which HE instituted. Obviously, we can see this pattern and plan in nature, but it is also (and more directly and more forcefully and more authoritatively) derived from the words of Scripture themselves. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about economics, per se, but what it does say we should take as normative. In Isaiah 5:8 we see,

      “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!”

      Which would seem to militate against the sort of economic centralisation and concentration of property (i.e. wealth, esp. in Hebrew society) into a few hands. Not socialism, since it doesn’t talk about state ownership and state redistribution, per se, but the years of Jubilee, etc. would seem to have been a law put into place by God in that society to keep the few from permanently diseconomising the many.

      It’s true that not everyone wants to support themselves, I realise that. I think some of our disagreement may be cultural. I suspect (?) that you might be coming from a Slavic society, where distributism would be a much more foreign concept than in Anglo-derived countries (not surprising that it was developed by…Englishman, eh?). Anglo cultures have centuries of experience with small-holding, broadly-distributed mass ownership of property, even with the UK, for instance, still maintaining a substantial aristocratic apparatus despite all of the rampant democratisation of the past 100 years.

      It’s also true that to achieve a distributionist system, property might have to be “redistributed.” Maybe not as much as is thought, since much public land could be made private and sold off to the highest bidder (which would have the added advantage of confining the system more to those who actually want to participate). In some cases, large land owners allow land to lie waste, which does the community and society no good, and hence, might be a justified case in distributing such lands to someone who *would* put it to good use. This isn’t without precedentm the Romans used this to good effect to make Italy proper a much more prosperous peninsula than it was when Senators were simply gobbling up lands taken from subject “allies” but not using them sufficiently.

      When we talk about true human freedom and dignity, let’s keep in mind that these are not necessarily correlative concepts. It also begs the question whether “freedom” should even be a primary organising principle in a society. For most of European history it wasn’t (at least not in the way the term is meant now), and the couple of centuries or so that it has been haven’t exactly been our finest hour. One could easily argue that true human dignity would arise when man is freed from being a cog in the monergocapitalistic machine…

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      1. Thank you for the kindness.
        Distributism is an egalitarian system that aspires to abolish natural differences amongst men under the guise of “justice” when nothing is more unjust than a system where the possibilities and rewards are externally determined by other men ignoring God’s will.
        To Isaiah 5:8 I’d add “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the Apostle with “Command the rich of this world … to offer with no stint, to apportion largely”” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 66, art. 2, answer)
        How many kin or acquaintances of yours are willing to work the land? How many men do you know willing to participate in a distributism scheme? How many of them are also willing to renounce to the last advantages of the modern technology in some or all aspects of life?
        It’s tempting to think of us as blameless victims of the blind forces of the economy or the evil of technology, I understand that.
        I do believe that human freedom and dignity are inseparable states. It is through the knowledge of the Truth that we reach true freedom and are able to live with dignity.
        Yes, freedom should be an organizing principle of society. The free man is not a cog in the monergocapitalistic machine.

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      2. Hi Cristina, thanks again for dropping by!

        I don’t see distributism as egalitarian. Rather, I see it as a means for developing and identifying the natural aristocracy when you have an industrial/post-agrarian society. Those who can, will. Those who can’t, won’t. Far from being egalitarian (which necessarily presumes an equality of outcomes more than it does of opportunity), it is a potential means by which inequality would develop, as a natural course of action.

        While Chesterton’s original view of distributism was agrarian in tone (“three acres and a cow”), I do not see in it an inability to expands its relevance into the sort of more specialised sort of system found in an industrialised society. In a sense, we already had a distributist-like system in western industrial nations when big box stores were not the norm and so-called “mom-and-pop” stores were more the norm. That was essentially a commercial analogue to “three acres and a cow.” With respect to larger industries which employ thousands, as noted above, a syndicalist approach would seem to be compatible with a distributist one as well. I don’t see them necessarily being competitive, but tangential.

        Let’s remember that reaction is not (or should not be) merely about “any -ocracy but democracy.” Godless plutarchy is as bad as godless democracy. Just because the one removes power out of the hands of the masses does not necessarily make it correct or proper. It still lacks that critical legitimacy and humanity.

        As Ellul notes throughout his book, modern man really IS the victim (blameless may be going too far) of blind forces driving technique (which is not to be confused merely with science or technology). Technique really does take on a direction all its own, and will pursue that direction to the very end of its conceptual space. We see the truth of this all around us. the only way to stop this dehumanisation is to consciously choose to accept the inefficiencies of a non-monergocapitalistic system and be willing to live with that. Will people go along with this? I’d bet more would than many would be tempted to think.

        If freedom really is to be an organising principle in society, and if the free man is not a cog in the monergocapitalistic machine, then you should support freeing man from that machine and seeking alternatives to it. This is especially so considering the spiritual sense in which you are casting a definition of freedom (It is through the knowledge of the Truth that we reach true freedom and are able to live with dignity.) I would agree with that definition, as it is far truer than today’s libertarian definition of “do what you like, so long as you don’t harm someone else” – a specious set of ill-definitions if I’ve ever seen one. But if we’re to live with this true spiritual freedom, then the bonds of the economic necessity must be broken, whether by distributism, syndicalism, or some other alternative.

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  6. As I understood the original essay, you did propose distributism as a remedy for current social maladies encapsulated in the term monergocapitalism.
    Re-reading the essay and the thread I fail to see, again, how a distributism system would be any solution for a state of affairs whose main culprit is the so-called “blind forces driving technique”. The technique is a human achievement. It is the human spiritual life that needs a revival. Not the way we work, but the way we see the world is what has to change.
    That is why I do believe freedom has to be the organizing principle of society. Not freedom from the hypothetical machine, Titus, but freedom through knowledge of the Truth, which has nothing to do with ever-changing material conditions of this world.
    On a practical level, the application of the distributism system would require a change of the people’s mind. Once this change is a reality, what is the benefit of this system over any other more integrated and cooperative?

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    1. Hi Cristina,

      Thanks again for dropping by! I apologise for taking so long to respond. I’ve been playing “catchup” on comments all the way down the line today.

      “Re-reading the essay and the thread I fail to see, again, how a distributism system would be any solution for a state of affairs whose main culprit is the so-called “blind forces driving technique”. The technique is a human achievement. It is the human spiritual life that needs a revival. Not the way we work, but the way we see the world is what has to change.”

      The problem is that we can’t separate the two. The way we work is a direct result of the way we see the world. When we only view the world through the lens imposed by monergocapitalism, then yes, our work will be as dehumanising as the rest. You are correct in saying that changing our system will require a change in peoples’ minds. This is the impetus for the attack on monergocapitalism and the proposal of distributism as an alternative. People who have to consider these thoughts before they can ever choose to act or not act on them. While technique is a human achievement, this does not necessarily mean it is humanising. After all, totalitarianism is also a human achievement, of sorts. Technique drives out any competitors, including the spiritual life. This is much of the reason (though not completely, of course) for why modern Western society is so godless. Our forefathers were right to look askance upon a too-great concern for wealth and commerce, and to oppose usury such as we see in modern banking systems.

      “That is why I do believe freedom has to be the organizing principle of society. Not freedom from the hypothetical machine, Titus, but freedom through knowledge of the Truth, which has nothing to do with ever-changing material conditions of this world.”

      I would contend that this freedom would be much more easily attained (or at least presented as a choice) were we to make the choice to reject the monergocapitalism of the modern world and return back to a more sacral and numinous view of the world. But both will have to happen at the same time.

      In a sense, the dichotomy between this freedom and enslavement to radical capitalism is independent of material conditions. Monergocapitalism doesn’t exist *because* of science or technology or what have you. Rather, it is a social and cultural mindset that perhaps arose contemporaneously with the rise of advanced science and tech, but which exists because of sociospiritual conditions already arising in man’s desacralisation of the world around him. But to REsacralise his interactions with the world, man has to back away from that very tempting and powerful competitor. If distributism could be presented as a way of encouraging that, I don’t see why that avenue shouldn’t be pursued.

      “On a practical level, the application of the distributism system would require a change of the people’s mind. Once this change is a reality, what is the benefit of this system over any other more integrated and cooperative?”

      I guess the answer would lie in what exactly you had in mind with a more integrated and cooperative system(s). If you mean a socialistic system, that of course suffers from exactly the same desacral and profane issues as radical capitalism. Both are essentially worldly philosophies that make man the measure of all things (in one, collectively, in the other, individually).

      Thanks again!

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