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The Global Market Doctrine: A Study in Fundamentalist Theology

March 26, 2004 No Comment
By Dr John McMurtry, Centre for Research on Globalisation

A theological doctrine, like a science, is an organized system of ideas which is intended to make sense of reality in terms of the principles it advances. But what distinguishes a fundamentalist theology from a science or other learned discipline is that:

1. It posits an invisible Supreme Ruler whose order of rule and laws are conceived as universal, inevitable, and absolute;

2. This order of rule and its laws are conceived as immutable and inalterable, and any interference in their nature or structure is construed as abhorrent;

3. The Supreme Ruler rewards those who are disciplined in their adherence to this order and its laws, and is unforgiving to those who rebel against, violate, or fail to submit to getting its fundamentals right;

4. Happiness and prosperity are the rewards of the Supreme Ruler, and are distributed to all subjects in proportion to their competitive satisfaction of the order’s demands; while poverty, degradation and suffering are the punishments which inevitably befall all peoples of the world who in any way flout, shirk or do not adapt to its order’s demands;

5. There are perfect states of equilibrium of the Ruler’s eternal order which do not exist and are never attained, but which all the Ruler’s subjects must understand as the optimums towards which the system tends if not interfered with by the atheist plans and insubordinations of governments and unbelievers.

6. If necessary sacrifices are made by a society to ensure that its fundamentals are right and in proper adjustment to the Supreme Ruler’s re-structuring demands, then prosperity or miracles will transfigure that society by the workings of the Supreme Ruler’s invisible hand;

7. Whatever facts of life disaster may seem to contradict the necessity and validity of the Ruler’s order of rule only appear to conflict with them, and can always be explained and corrected by more rigorous understanding and application of the order’s discipline, austerity and sacrifices;

8. Those who doubt or criticize the perfection of the design of the Ruler, the justice of the order’s distribution of goods or punishments, and the global inevitability of the system’s rule are repudiators of the only hope for human salvation and prosperity, and are to be known as heretics and subversives;

9. Although denominations and sects may fight among one another to determine and declare what the Supreme Ruler truly prescribes and prohibits to His subjects, they are united in their abomination of all that obstructs, creates barriers to or builds protective walls against the free circulation of His Word and His Laws;

10. Any and all societies, parties or governments which seek to live by any alternative order of social life organization than ordained by the Supreme Ruler are the declared Enemy of the Ruler and of the freedom of humanity, and are to be warred against until expelled from the community of nations and destroyed as the forces of evil.

For each logical space in which the term “the Supreme Ruler” or “the Ruler’s order and laws” occurs, substitute the term “the global market” in these logical spaces. In this way, we can test whether and to what extent global market theory and practise fulfils the principles of a fanatical theological doctrine in its underlying structure of belief. Note that “theological” here is being used in a restricted sense. It refers only to an absolutist and vengeful theological doctrine, as distinguished from a theology which construes its God as open to different social orders, and not demanding continuous sacrifices and punishments of those it rules.

Review each of these ten principles in turn, and reflect upon the logical place-holding of the “global market” for Supreme Ruler. Is one principle not fulfilled by the global market doctrine and practise? If the inevitability, the necessity, the inalterability, the unfalsifiability, the unlimited rewards and harsh punishments, the invisible hand rule, the enemies of the true doctrine and their rightful eradication are not all prescribed by this or that global market advocate, then the position in question falls outside the theocratic ideology being considered here. But do not take the normal desire to evade detection as an adherent to a fanatical doctrine as evidence against adherence to it. Seek to know what principle is, in truth, rejected.

Insofar as any principle is truly repudiated – for example, that alternative social orders to the market system are not to be necessarily and rightfully isolated and attacked until destroyed, then we confront evidence of a moderated belief system. In contrast, the God of the market fundamentalist is a jealous God. All who limit, resist or seek to change His laws are agents of the fallen Conspiracy, to be denied all goods of the market and to be severed from the body of mankind. The distinction between the fanatic and the non-fanatic structure of belief here is above all found in the assumed goodness of the right to attack and destroy whatever is not itself.

We need to be fully aware that the underlying theocratic dogma at work here is not recognized by such adherents to market creed. Just as the tyrannical character of Stalinist or Nazi doctrine was never recognized by its true believers, so in the case of this totalitarian value program. What is revealed here are underlying principles of the doctrine’s theory and practise. Like a grammar, underlying principles can regulate claims and behaviours beneath conscious beliefs and self-descriptions.

We need also to be clear that the freedom of choice of individuals within the market system’s laws of property, supply and demand, profit maximization, and so on are perfectly consistent with a determining theological absolutism behind the doctrine of “free choice” for consumers, sellers of labour and other market agents. Consider, in comparison, the central and regulating doctrine of “free will” within the mediaeval theological framework. The doctrine of free will explicitly required that all that a person chose within the Supreme Ruler’s laws and edicts was voluntary and individually responsible, that these actions were judged by the Supreme Ruler or His representatives on earth as satisfying or not satisfying His demands, and that they were accorded rewards for obedience or harsh punishments for disobedience by the design and operations of His invisible hand. Every one of these principles is also asserted b! y the global market doctrine, only in different, contemporary slogans. This may be tested again by placing “the global market” in the logical space of “the Supreme Ruler” in each of the clauses of the previous sentence. As with mediaeval orthodoxy, it is individuals who choose, who are judged, who are rewarded, and who are punished by the Ruler in accordance with their satisfaction or non-satisfaction of the global market’s demands. Societies are made up of these individuals, and are therefore subject in the aggregate to these same judgements, rewards and punishments – for example, “economic miracles” or “shock treatments” for whole societies.

The principal difference in theology between the global market and the mediaeval Church is that the judgements, rewards and punishments of the global market do not wait for an “afterlife” beyond the death of the body for their administration by the Invisible Hand. Rather, they are dealt swiftly and decisively at the end of a business cycle or even a working day, and are therefore conceived to be scientifically graphable. Economists are the priesthood of these theocratic fatelines. Structural readjustment programs are their militant crusade. And central banks and finance ministries are the theocracy’s obedient arms and offices of state adjusting societies and peoples everywhere to its necessary and inevitable commands. Behind all these faithful servants of the one destiny of humanity stands the new this-worldly Lord of the global market kingdom – transnational corporations, bond holders, stock investors and currency speculators! seeking ever higher money returns.

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