The Cult of the Self and the Power of Capitalism: Two Thinkers Comments
August 3rd 2009
I have just been reading two of my favourite websites, Pop Matters, which covers contemporary culture, and the brilliant OpenDemocracy. In the former, a review of a book by Chris Hedges – ‘Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle’ – throws up a number of interesting points.
According to Hedges, American society is characterised by:
The cult of self dominates our cultural landscape (and) … has the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, and self-importance; a need for constant stimulations, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation; and the inability to feel remorse or guilt.
The greatest illusion is that reform is possible without questioning the system itself: ‘The structure we have inherited of unfettered capitalism and globalization is accepted as natural law … as inevitable,’ he says. Question its moral or social effects, and the typical response is: ‘What are you going to do? This is the way things are.’
And from a very different place I found this quote from Leszek Kolakowski in an OpenDemocracy essay by Roger Scruton:
Capitalism developed spontaneously and organically from the spread of commerce. Nobody planned it, and it did not need an all-embracing ideology, whereas socialism was an ideological construction. Ultimately, capitalism is human nature at work – that is, man’s greed allowed to follow its course – whereas socialism is an attempt to institutionalize and enforce fraternity. It seems obvious by now that a society in which greed is the main motivation of human action, for all of its repugnant and deplorable aspects, is incomparably better than a society based on compulsory brotherhood, whether in national or international socialism.