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Monday, April 20, 2015

Will Christian hipsterpreneurs save capitalism? (The answer may shock you.)


Patheos is a strange, cacophonous place, like a religious equivalent of BuzzFeed. Such circumstances often create fascinating spectacle.

One of Patheos' contributors, the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, recently produced this piece on millenials, culture and capitalism, trying to underline alleged contradictions, seemingly in an effort to reconcile American youth with the Protestant work ethic.

It makes little sense to point out contradictions when considering phenomena that do not lend themselves to anything approaching an unbiased, unified interpretation. The expectation that social movements – let alone generations – are (or should be) ideologically or theologically coherent strikes me as misguided. Our irreducibly complex societal dynamics cannot be appropriately apprehended by such a naïve epistemology. The search for reductive coherence is especially problematic in a technologically-advanced secular context that allows for multiple non-congruent axiologies.

It is certainly not clear to me that there is any meaningful comparison to be drawn between the hipsters' ethos of Bourdieuan cultural capitalism (Christian or otherwise) and the charitable activities of million-dollar corporations. One might even suggest such practices are antithetical.

I could say that insofar as sophistication is understood to supersede conventional notions of capital/profit in the millenial ethic of consumerism, millenial ideology/theology does not actually redeem capitalism – certainly not integrally, at any rate. I could say that, but I would prefer not to express myself one way or another on the subject; doing so would mean venturing into the rarefied realm of sheer speculation. Judgments derived from unstructured observation and second-hand data are too much like foregone conclusions; I believe our intuitions regarding social reality deserve to be subjected to much more rigorous empirical testing.

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