09 November 2016

The Market As God

Harvey Cox
2016, Harvard University Press, 278 pages,

Reviewer: Rosemary Connell

This book intertwines religious vignettes with market developments. An amazing panorama of theological stories, myths, legends, apt quotations, poems together with detailed historical insights and facts makes for fascinating reading. Economics is viewed through the lens of theology and this identifies that some economists may be travelling the same road as theologians once took and both may be acknowledging mistakes and learning from them. Crises happen both in religious history - the Reformation – and in Markets – 2008.

Parallels are drawn between the market and its message of ‘go into the wide world and grow’ and the enormous spread of church movements. Power whether in business or ecclesial tends to corrupt. The author details the huge rise of big banks and big churches leading in some cases to mega churches (mostly outside Europe). He notes that nothing can grow forever – cgrowth is not an imperative.

The market holds a powerful quasi-deified position. The towers of financial and other conglomerates dwarf the steeples of many churches in many cities today but the struggle between god and the market is ongoing. The market should give up its reign as a deity unless it performs godlike duties for the weak and poor. The relationship between globalisation and inequality can be closely related. It is deemed unjust to take resources needed for life itself for commercial or personal gain. We see a great deal of questionable exploitation in the past and ongoing today.

The spiritual and commercial features of many high days and holidays are closely linked e.g. Christmas, Easter. The market wants to know about our desires and needs as does the Church. The development of the market is compared to the seven days of creation – after which all did not go entirely according to plan! This is a scholarly erudite book, which finds many parallels between Christianity in its widest sense, and the Market. It brings a new focus and fresh ideas in reviewing the Market as God.