Friday, May 29, 2009

Cavanaugh on Consumerism

If the chapter is as good as his own summary then I am in for a treat … and a challenge to my entire existence!

“In chapter 2, I examine the dynamics of attachment and detachment in consumer culture. Although consumerism is often equated with greed, which is an inordinate attachment to material things, I show that consumerism is, in fact, characterized by detachment from production, producers, and products. Consumerism is a restless spirit that is never content with any particular material thing. In this sense, consumerism has some affinities with Christian asceticism, which counsels a certain detachment from material things. The difference is that, in consumerism, detachment continually moves us from one product to another, where in Christian life, asceticism is a means to a greater attachment to God and to other people. We are consumers in the Eucharist, but in consuming the body of Christ we are transformed into the body of Christ, drawn into the divine life in communion with other people. We consume in the Eucharist, but we are thereby consumed by God.”

William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire


Anonymous said...

Scott Savage, In response to your post on consumerism :

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

"Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

These are figures of "Ecocide".
These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land].

Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Delhi, India

Scott Savage said...


I am inclined to agree with the general sense of your post, as I understand it, but I am not sure what from the quote directly prompted you to disagree with what Cavanaugh is saying. Could you explain with a bit more connection to the quote.

If I had to guess at where your critique comes from, it would be against a Christian, i.e Cavanaugh, who is trying to reconcile Christianity with consumerism. As I understand him, that is not his goal. In fact, by mentioning our consuming the Eucharist (and thus being consumed by the Eucharist) he is offering a direct critique against the malformation of desires that arises from, as he says, "a restless spirit that is never content with any particular material thing." Which I think shares some of the same concerns as you do.


Anonymous said...

This reference provides a very stark image re the causative connection between Christianity (as a power and control seeking institution) and the consumer anti-"culture" in which we now live.

No account of seemingly insightful "theology" by Cavanaugh, or anyone else, can stop, or even make the slightest bit of difference to this power seeking drive.

Scott Savage said...


I'd love to hear a bit more about your thought. I suppose I agree that the Church as an institution is always going to be in a position to attain power (or at least desire power). I agree that is a problem and not the intention God had for His Church. However, I believe that Cavanaugh is also rejecting those kind of power games. Given that the quote above is just a summer of the chapter that he offers in the introduction, I believe that whole chapter is worth the read. I would disagree with you in that I believe "theology" can help. Good theology always calls "us" to repentance. In this sense the Church is no different from anyone else other than that they are of a different desire, even if that desire is not quite formed in such a way that reveals anything of the Kingdom of God (I say this cautiously, and a bit humorously). In other words, we are a people on the way to a healthy, whole, desire/humanity.