What Greta didn’t say ...
A common observation about the Cold War era was that neither side actually operated with intelligent plans to improve or redesign the world. Each side buttressed its position with an ideological “religion”: the Communists had Marxism – and the West, its religion of “The Market”.
But whether either actually fulfils the definition of a religion is debatable. It is a stretch to call any theory of history, say Marxism, a religion, just as it is an exaggeration to call our appeals to “the market” religious acts. Perhaps “religious-like” works? It may be that most ideologies are not religions, but if we, the people, interpret them so... they are.
Neither likes to be called a religion, yet both call the other a religion. Marxists in particular find this accusation annoying since they believe their theory of history is “scientifically” moving humanity away from the Dark Ages when religious beliefs determined all parts of our lives. Likewise, the marketeers argue they are scientific economists or sociologists, and not a “clergy” for the economic organization of our society. Profit is not a theological concept, nor is it in any way a divinity – although Marxists argue otherwise.
However, both sides do hold their views in religious-like ways – unquestionable, unassailable, and capable of explaining any society’s social and economic forces.
Today, few anywhere believe that the Marxist theory of history and social development is immutable. However, we Canadians still treat The Market as a sort of holy institution or divine intervention in the course of history. Pay attention to how most of us use “the market” in ordinary conversation: very close to the religious. And, really, whether this makes us parishioners in the Church of the Market is not the argument. How we use the concept of the marketplace – it’s mysterious “invisible hand” – nears religious thinking. But this could mean only that we are accustomed after centuries of religious leadership to this sort of language.
One implication of this, for example, is that the climate crisis is actually a result of The Market’s operation. Marketplace economics have led us to the brink of this catastrophe. Hence marketeers’ common response: there is no crisis, no need for radical action. Others claim it will be the Market that provides solutions.
The Market has generated our comfortable life-styles. But it has failed as a means of moderating human destructiveness. And if we cannot accept that the Market is responsible for climate change, what does this say of our beliefs?
The climate crisis demonstrates that an unfettered Market will not deliver a stable future. The Market operates on constant growth – any sort, any cost. Marxism might have delivered the same, but that’s not our worry. Our worry is that our own Market-driven economic system (our religion) is self-destructive.
We might question how it is even possible to avert the coming climate catastrophe, if we continue our near-religious attachment to The Market.