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The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion

by Maria Wolflingseder
The market accepts and rejects like a Calvinist God. The market only promises itself. Its highest goal is the economic boom. The Christian God's reign was not of this world. In contrast, the market theocracy makes this side into something otherworldly. The cult of money and the comodity eclipses the outlandishness and absurdity of all its predecessors.


By Maria Wolflingseder

[This article published in March 2007 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Consumption or consuming comes from the Italian consume or consumare. In our capitalist market economy, there is hardly anything we consume without buying. Shopping seems the most natural thing in the world. As we must breathe, eat and drink, we must also shop to survive. But shopping is not a natural affair.

Exploitation of our Goods and Acts is Most Important

What is consuming? What do we do when we shop? Buying-selling is not an immediate form of giving and taking. We acquire a good or service by means of money. Thus, the market enters between me and the good. Shopping is exchanging money for a good. The practical value matters most for the consumer. The producer focuses on the exchange value paid by the customer. To the producer and the buyer, the product is completely indifferent – whether he sells atom bombs or baby strollers is the same. Whether the production is as cheap as possible and whether there are many customers is important.

The social standardization of shopping has extended to more and more products and services. Even signs of life and natural resources that earlier were not commercialized are increasingly pressed into the commodity form: air pollution quotas and patenting all human, vegetable and animal genes as well as human organs. The satisfaction of interpersonal needs is often purchased with money. The market for psycho- and body-therapies, flirt- and mourning seminars, partner connections, companion agencies, child porn and child prostitution is exploding.

This means firstly, whoever has money can buy everything offered for sale. Secondly, more and more human needs are only satisfied when a legal title is acquired or a contract for sale signed. Thirdly, needs that cannot be satisfied with goods remain unfulfilled.

The buying and selling system is retained even when it seems absurd from a human viewpoint. For example, tons of food are destroyed instead of given away. This corresponds to the logic of money. The prices must be upheld.

Thus, shopping or money is more important in our society than the goods! Money and profit are more important than the conditions that serve the well-being of persons or the animal- and plant world. – Money, the pressure for commodification (profit must be gained) and the market are given cultic dimensions. Money in itself is worthless. I cannot eat it or wear it and it only has a trifling thermal value. Money can only stand for other things, not for itself. Nevertheless, all our intentions and projects circle permanently around one thing, money. It has become a fetish or idol to which we must offer tribute, an unreliable magic pill or promise of magic to satisfy our needs.

Commodifying, making all our goods and actions into money, is more important than these goods and actions… A whole economic branch promises us the blueness of heaven. Advertising spots, advertising brochures, advertising signs, and inserts plug up all the channels, mailboxes and entrances… The highest principle in our market economy is to increase money and gain profit, not to produce or provide what is sensible and necessary for humanity. This requires endless growth and generates ever stronger competition. The main criterion is what can sell and make the most money.

All Internet job offers rest on dubious promises to earn money by selling nothing. A large part of all businesses are only "air" businesses or "pyramid schemes." This development is the logical continuance of the blind pressure to merciless exploitation and is nothing abnormal. Smuggling, the slave trade, weapons trade and organ trade are not the evil opposites of good legal businesses but only their consistent continuation. The borders were always flowing.

The new universal form of enchantment

Money has replaced God and become our new religion, an unparalleled universal, totalitarian religion! We cannot avoid the pressure to sell our labor power and buy the essentials for life.

The market expanded in the 18th century. The conditions have turned around or reversed in an incredible way. "While a secular state forms around the market, the market stopped being anything merely profane. The market is given an existential or cultic dimension. It becomes the central socialization force and not only as a trading center of goods. With that, the market is promoted to the authority that decides over the joys and pains, meaning and nonsense and existence and non-existence of human life.

The market accepts and rejects like a Calvinist God. The market only promises itself. Its highest good is the economic boom (the Protestant theologian and philosopher Christoph Tureke: "The market gives and the market takes away," in: Literaturen 12/ 2005).

The followers of traditional religions know about their own religiosity. They confess to it. The members of the commodity- and money church are different. The theocracy of goods and money permanently penetrates our everyday actions so we are not even aware of this process anymore. The Christian God's reign was not of this world. In contrast, the market theocracy makes this side into something otherworldly. The cult of money and the commodity eclipses the outlandishness and absurdity of all its predecessors. Goods production was subjected to the end-in-itself of profit production and its appendages. Goods are not created to satisfy needs. Rather solvent needs exist as an opportunity for money-making. So the daily reproduction of humans changed into an unending fetish service. Metaphysical ideas up to absurdity and otherworldly rites like earning money and the legal system are regarded as completely self-evident, irreversible and as a social fact of nature.

In truth, the commodity logic is a total social form, a subject- and thought-form and not a crude economic thing. Modern democratic consciousness is an expression of commodified thinking that cannot see its own limits anymore and therefore can only conceive a solution of the social abuse on the basis of money and exploitation.

Instead of worshipping the fetish exploitation and market, we must demystify the cult and emphasize concrete wealth. Wealth always exists in a twofold form in capitalist society: as physical-material wealth (food, housing, clothing etc) and as money-wealth. But material riches only have a right to exist as an abstract money-wealth – when it becomes a commodity. Today, making sufficient goods and services available for everyone would not be a problem for the first time in history. Changing it into goods, profit and money is only one problem. This is the logical consequence of uncoupling wealth production from labor. This means less and less human labor is needed to produce commodity wealth. Machines do work much better and cheaper. People become unemployed and have little disposable money. They cannot buy the goods that exist in abundance. So money or the pressure to have money stands as an obstacle between them and their supply!

For most, a self-determined production and distribution of goods, that is direct appropriation without purchase and without exchange, is unimaginable. But that is the only possibility for making a good life possible for everyone. How can we think beyond the panic fear over the death-bringing logic of the capitalist system?
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