The Ideology of Environmental Domination Ch. 6 John Bradford, Ph.D.
Ideology and Environmental HarmQuestions in this chapter:• What are the ideological origins of environmental domination?• Where do ideas that sanction environmental domination come from?• Do ideas actually matter, i.e. affect our behavior?
Moral parallels of Protestantism and Capitalism• Summary: Max Weber argues that there is an ‘elective affinity’ (or compatibility) between early forms of Protestantism (which emphasized hard work, denial of pleasure, and self sacrifice) and capitalism, broadly defined.• Thus, Weber argues that today’s secular treadmill of production (which imprisons us all) has religious roots.• Note: No one argues that the Soviet Union was any more environmentally friendly! Thus, ‘capitalism’ really is better translated as ‘industrialism.’
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism • Capitalism is defined by Weber as the pursuit of forever renewed profit by means of rational (calculating) capitalistic enterprise. • ‘Spirit of Capitalism’ = the calling to make more money as an end in itself, and to work hard for its own sake as a sign of salvation. This is a new psychological disposition.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism• The Protestant Ethic is the ‘Spirit of Capitalism’! The Protestant Ethic (aka Puritan Ethic, Work Ethic) means: 1. sacrificing and saving for the future and 2. adopting a rational (= calculating) attitude towards life.• Spirit of (early) modern capitalism distinguished by hard work and asceticism (frugality); not by greed or self-indulgence
Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation• Protestants more likely than Catholics to have business occupations, WHY?• Martin Luther inaugurated (began) the Protestant Reformation in 1517, which rejected the hierarchical authority structure and doctrines Martin Luther of the Catholic Church (1483-1546)
CalvinismTenets of Calvinism: 1. the doctrine of predestination- the idea that one’s salvation is already decided/pre- ordained by God; 2. God’s will can not be known or interpreted (e.g. by a priest) 3. Purpose of this-world activities is to serve God diligently• To convince others (and themselves) that they were already chosen, Calvinists would work hard and sacrifice for the John Calvin future because God would only select (1509-1564) the industrious…• “Calvinism was a competitive cult of work, denial, and rationalization”- (Bell, p. 151)
Calvinism and ‘the calling’ to work really, really, hard…• What should the individual God-fearing believer do?• Idea of the calling: Labor in a calling/a vocation; dedicated this-worldly activity to glorify God.• Success in this world is a sign of salvation in the next world!• The Calvinist took it as his duty to demonstrate proof of his salvation. John Calvin• This was accomplished through rational, (1509-1564) methodical self-control, self-discipline. Avoid spontaneous enjoyment; avoid anything that would distract from work• “Every hour lost is lost to labor for the glory of God”
How Calvinism Created Capitalism• Hard work, combined with asceticism, produces money/profit accumulation• Expansion of capitalism is an unintended consequence of Calvinists’ religious beliefs and their rationalization of those beliefs 1. Anxiety over 2. Hard Work + after-life Frugality (as sign of salvation) 3. Accumulate 4. Capitalism! Savings and Investments
Christianity and Environmental Domination• Lynn White argues in his essay “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” (1967) that our environmental problems are rooted in Western science and technology, which in turn derive from Christian ideas about nature.• Christian beliefs Science and Tech. Environmental Problems
Christianity and Environmental Domination• White focused on the development of powered machines: e.g. weight- driven clock, wind-mills, water- powered sawmills, etc.• In particular, he argues that the moldboard plow profoundly changed ‘man’s relation to the soil’: “Formerly man had been part of nature; now he was the exploiter of nature.”• These developments coincided with (or were ‘caused by’?) the replacement of paganism for Christianity in much of Europe, White argues.
Christianity and Environmental DominationProblems• The link between these technological developments and Christianity are weak; indeed, the poor quality of the soil in the North seems to be a strong incentive for developing the plow!• Christianity had already replaced paganism, at least officially, well before this time.
Christianity and Environmental Domination Paganism Christianity Nature is alive, organic, magical, Environment as dead and and full of spirits inanimate Time is cyclical Time is linear and has an ending God, the saints, etc. are God, the saints, etc. are immanent (within or inside) transcendent- above or outside Nature of NatureAnd God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let themhave dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over thecattle, and over all the earth, over the creepy thing that creepeth upon the earth-Genesis 1:26
Christianity and Environmental Domination• We cannot conclude that Christianity unambiguously promotes science and technology at the expense of the environment!• Here are some additional problems with White’s argument: i. White’s connections are based on the Old Testament, shared by Jews and Muslims. Yet, White does not argue that all of these traditions also developed a ‘biblical license of domination’
Christianity and Environmental Domination• Problems with White’s argument: – ii) Christianity itself is very diverse! Eastern Christianity of Constantinople was not linked by White to the promotion of science and technology. Moreover, White himself cites Saint Francis of Assisi as a counter-current within the Christian tradition. Why didn’t his view become dominant? – iii) Moreover, Christianity has often been opposed to science- Galileo was accused of heresy!
Christianity and Environmental DominationProblems with White’s argument:• iv) Many passages within the Bible emphasize ecology and care for nature. – And God said: This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a token of a covenant between Me and the earth”- (Genesis 9:12-13)• v) Dominion as used in the Bible does not mean ‘domination’ but rather responsibility for one’s home.• vi) Other cultures are just as domineering of the environment!
Individualism, the Body, and Environmental Domination• Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian social theorist (1895 – 1975), analyzing early French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais (1494 – 1553), notices that our attitudes toward the body, and our sense of humor about the body, have changed dramatically since this time.• Today (or for much of the 20th century) we considered Rabelais’s style of humor as gross, rather than funny. Why?
Individualism, the Body, and Environmental Domination• Mikhail Bakhtin distinguishes between the carnivalesque body and the classical body. – Carnivalesque body = body of interconnections, openings and exchanges with the environment and others. – Classical Body = body of separation from society and nature.
Individualism, the Body, and Environmental Domination• Carnivalesque humor is egalitarian, not degrading, because it unites everyone (including the wealthy and powerful) on the same earthly, bodily plane.• The term ‘classical body’ expresses an ascetic attitude about the body that hides the body; food is eaten with utensils, mouth is kept closed; the nose is blown with a kleenex, etc. – ‘Asceticism’ = denial of bodily existence.• All bodily reminders of our ‘animality’ are restricted to the twin temples of bathroom and bedroom.
Etiquette and Manners• Erasmus wrote “On Civility in Children” in 1530, instructing people to: – Not to blow their noses or spit at the table – Not share each others soup bowls, knives, and spoons (forks weren’t used) Desiderius Erasmus – How to sit Roterodamus – How to say hello (1466 – 1536) – To not pass gas around others: boys should “retain the wind by compressing the belly”
Etiquette and MannersThere were no Mirrors – Mirrors allow ‘seeing oneself from without’ or from the outside. – Modern forms of self- awareness and etiquette would not have arisen without the widespread use of mirrors beginning during the Renaissance.
Etiquette and MannersBathing – People had a much less inhibited- one might say ‘childish’- attitude towards the body and its functions – Knights were waited on in their baths by women – It was commonplace for families to run through the streets naked on their way to the bathhouses.
The Body and Hierarchy• In anthropology, the idea of a carnivalesque and classical body is expressed differently as a distinction between joking relations and relations of avoidance: – Joking relations = relations of playful aggression, compulsory disrespect and informality; equality. Equal exchange of abuse. The joking body is seen as continuous with the world around it. – Avoidance Relations = a relation of formal deference, setting apart and treated as special (Durkheim’s notion of the ‘sacred’); avoidance is ultimately hierarchical.• HIERARCHY CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT ‘AVOIDANCE RELATIONS’ – David Graeber, anthropologist.
The Body and Hierarchy• The sociologist norbert Elias shows how Medieval courtesy books like those of Erasmus represented bodily functions as shameful only when done in the presence of superiors.• Eventually, however, they became shameful even in the presence of equals! The relations of avoidance became generalized and internalized.• Graeber argues that there is a correlation between societies dominated principally by exchange relations and those societies marked by the rules of avoidance.
Gender and Environmental Issues• Consider these phrases: – “virgin land”; “virgin forest”; “fertility of the soil”; “Mother Nature”; ….• Our culture often associates women with ‘nature’, the realm of reproduction – childrearing, the home, etc. and men with ‘culture’, the realm of production- the public sphere.• Ecofeminism – explores the links between domination of women and domination of nature.