McCabe on “what is wrong with capitalism”

by Kim on November 25, 2009

“What is wrong with capitalism, then, is not that it involves some people being richer than I am. I cannot see the slightest objection to other people being richer than I am; I have no urge to be as rich as everybody else, and no Christian (and indeed no grown-up person) could possibly devote his life to trying to be as rich or richer than others. There are indeed people, very large numbers of people, who are obscenely poor, starving, diseased, illiterate, and it is quite obviously unjust and unreasonable that they should be left in this state while other people or other nations live in luxury; but this has nothing specially to do with capitalism, even though we will never now be able to alter that situation until capitalism has been abolished. You find exactly the same conditions in, say, slave societies and, moreover, capitalism, during its prosperous boom phases, is quite capable of relieving distress at least in fully industrialised societies - this is what the ‘Welfare State’ is all about. What is wrong with capitalism is simply that it is based on human antagonism, and it is precisely here that it comes in conflict with Christianity. Capitalism is a state of war, but not just a state of war between equivalent forces; it involves a war between those who believe in and prosecute war as a way of life, as an economy, and those who do not. The permanent capitalist state of war erupts every now and then into a major killing war, but its so-called peacetime is just war carried on by other means.”

Herbert McCabe, “The Class Struggle and Christian Love”, in God Matters (London: Continuum, 1987, 2005), pp. 192-93.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


PamBG 11.25.09 at 2:52 pm

An interesting perspective. I’ll have to think about that. I think “war” is rather strong. Competition and indifference to the other, certainly.


Bruce 11.25.09 at 11:00 pm

But would we care about the “antagonism” if we didn’t know the poor were dropping like flies around us? It’s true that there has always been exploitation, but capitalism gives it a deeper, darker twist.


John 11.28.09 at 3:23 am

Yes capitalism is the now-time historical development of the drive to total power and control at the root of the entire Western “cultural” project, including its dominant religion, that is, Christianity.

One of the best explanations and descriptions of this power drive was/is by Lewis Mumford in The Pentagon of Power. He called the over-arching formative force behind this power drive, the Invisible Megamachine.

These stark images (which are featured in the book) say it all—including the role of the church as a power and control seeking institution too

Plus this essay gives a very sobering assessment of the state of the world altogether, and how we got to here (via the war of all against All now being dramatized all over the planet)


LeAnn R 05.19.14 at 5:54 am

What is Wrong With Capitalism?

(from “Greenspan’s Anguish — Thoreau As Economic Prophet and other Essays”; by James Eggert; copyright 2013; Green Dragon Books; ISBN (paperback) 978-1-62386-000-4)

Despite its materialistic virtues, something’s amiss in the Land of Capitalism. In addition to equity and justice issues, there is also a destructive quality in capitalism that often violates the ecological laws that can and should ensure life’s beauty, balance, its health and long-term continuity.

To search for that undermining quality, let us pretend for a moment that you could literally pick up market capitalism as if it were a flawed gemstone. Now place that stone in the palm of your hand and, turning it over and over, inspect the gem for defects, fissures and possible flaws. First, what would be the economist’s perspective? Now angle it slightly differently. What would be the viewpoint of the ecologist? And finally, is it possible to look at capitalism from a prairie’s perspective, or say that of an old-growth forest?
(LeAnn R. is the publicist for Professor Eggert)

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