The Labor of Communion in a Capital Age

I recently read a great article by Daniel M. Bell in The Princeton Theological Review entitled “The Labor of Communion in a Capital Age.” In this article Bell takes issue with our Capitalist Age and its inherent tendencies to distort human relations with people, God, and the creation. In contrast to the subject of capitalism (homeo economicus), a subject characterized by “struggle, conflict, and competition,” Bell offers a Spirit-formed subject that is corporate and ecclesial in nature. “Unlike its capitalist counterpart this is a subject that is…neither self-interested nor relates to others as commodities in an endless (business) cycle of competition and conflict driven by scarcity but instead participates in the divine gift economy of abundance and ceaseless generosity.”

My friend (and roommate) Adam informed me that The Princeton Theological Review can be found online so I have linked the article and would definitely encourage all to read it. It is fairly short, focused in its concerns (comparing the autonomous subject of capitalism with the Spirit-formed, ecclesial subject), hard hitting in its critiques, and encouraging and hopeful in its proposals. I highly recommend it! Below is a summary quote from the article.

“In sum, the problem with capitalism is that it construes our relations with one another and God in a manner that precludes genuine friendship and communion. Under capital, we relate to one another competitively, agonistically, and God, far from befriending us, far from seeking to deliver us from the sin-induced agony that is this struggle, instead presides over it like a prison guard staging a gang fight. Thus, even if capitalism works, it is still wrong because the agony it fosters and perpetuates among people and with God is antithetical to the true communion for which we were created, to which we were called, and which Christians are empowered to proclaim and embody.”
(Daniel M. Bell, “The Labor of Communion in a Capital Age,” The Princeton Theological Review 35 (Fall 2006), 8.)

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