Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Materialist theology and anti-capitalist resistance, or, ‘What would Jesus buy?’

an article by Anna-Maria Murtola (Independent Researcher, Waiwera, Auckland, New Zealand) published in Organization Volume 19 Number 3 (May 2012)


Analysis of resistance in critical organization and management studies today tends to focus on expressions of micro resistance in the workplace. Meanwhile, much broader struggles are taking place on the global arena in response to the ongoing violence of neoliberal capitalism.

Capitalism, which has always had a fraught relationship to religion, appears today in many ways as a religion in its own right. Furthermore, its ongoing expansion is explicitly secured through the support of particular theological ideas and proponents, primarily from American conservative Christianity. It should thus come as no surprise that anti-capitalist resistance today turns to theology for an effective counter-politics.

This article draws on the materialist theology of Slavoj Žižek in order to analyse the resistance of anti-capitalist activist Reverend Billy. In doing so, it shows how theology is today mobilized in anti-capitalist resistance.

If contemporary ideology operates on a logic of distancing, as Žižek claims, then an effective strategy of resistance may reside in the opposite, a logic of overidentification. The overidentification that we see in both Žižek’s own work and in the activism of Reverend Billy, however, takes the form of parodic overidentification, which embraces in an exaggerated form a part rather than the whole.

The analysis points to the need in studies of resistance to recognize the broader social and ideational context in which resistance operates, and emphasizes in particular the importance of resistance to confront both the postmodern cynicism and the rising absolutism that are part and parcel of contemporary capitalism.

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