Idols of Nations


The new book by Christina Petterson and I will be out soon. It is called Time of Troubles: A New Economic Framework for Early Christianity and is published by Fortress Press. The listed release date is 1 May, 2017.

The book is the third instalment in a series of books dealing with economics, religion and Marxism. The other two are Idols of Nations, also by the both of us and published by Fortress in 2014, and The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel, published by Westminster John Knox in 2015.

Time of Troubles

Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism (Fortress Press) is now out. You can find the book by clicking here or on the image in the side-bar. It may be a little cheaper on other sites.

Always best to write a review of a book you haven’t read – so the first review of Idols of Nations on Amazon:

First of all, the Bible is no myth. Second, these Bible bashers are pro-Marxist, anti-Christian and anti-capitalists. There total goal is an attempt to dissect something they know nothing about to promote a philosophy that has ALWAYS practically failed! The Bible made America the freest continent the world has ever known. It has also led to the great blessing this country has experienced. Only if we turn away from God and His word will we destroy this country, and become a humanistic state like all the others that no longer exist!

 

Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism, published by Fortress press, should be out any day now (here and here).

Idols of Nations 02

So in yet another moment of shameless promotion, a few endorsements:

A fascinating study unearthing the biblical elements that unexpectedly underpin the classic apologias for capitalism from Grotius to Malthus and Adam Smith, with reference to the Fall, original sin, predestination and freedom, all deeper narratives that sometimes even unconsciously seem to legitimize the emergence of this new and incomprehensible system.

Fredric Jameson, Duke University

The early philosophical promoters of capitalism as an ideology had a profound interest in theological questions. This is the first detailed study of the intersection between their philosophies, economic theories, and theological convictions. Boer and Petterson have given us a simply indispensable text.

Kenneth J. Surin, Duke University

Nicely done, fucking great etc. Very interesting stuff (and Adam Smith is madder than I thought, though I will be retelling the fable of the dogs to explain human society, commerce and exchange). What was particularly striking was the use of the Fall and Genesis … Anyway, it is a great book and I reckon you’ve got a topic here of central importance in the Bible and the development of capitalism. Piss off.

Sorry: the cleaned-up version will appear on the book:

In Idols of Nations, Roland Boer and Christina Petterson have produced a superbly argued book, which will be of central importance to anyone wishing to understand the interaction between the use of the Bible, theology and religion, and economics. They expertly show how discussion of the Fall casts a long shadow over the emergence of capitalism and related issues of liberalism and ethnocentrism, all of which persist in economic thinking to this day. Enjoyable, provocative, and learned.

James Crossley, University of Sheffield

Table of Contents:

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1: Hugo Grotius: Rewriting the Narrative of the Fall

Chapter 2: John Locke and the Trouble with Adam

Chapter 3: Adam Smith the StoryTeller

Chapter 4: The Lust and Hunger of Thomas Malthus

Conclusion

Bibliography

A new piece on the reverend Thomas Malthus, one of the not-so-great classical economists, and the doctrine of evil is now up on Political Theology.

A number of blog items have appeared recently on other sites:

The Revelations of Belarus

The Art of the Moscow Metro

Stalin’s Seven Sisters

These are on ‘Voyages on the Left’, while the following is on Political Theology:

John Locke, the Fall, and the Origin Myth of Capitalism (a snippet from Boer and Petterson, Idols of Nations)

Lhomme à la houe The Man with the Hoe

The manuscript for Idols of Nations went off to the press (Fortress) a month ago, so here’s some details, the preface, and a table of contents:

Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism

Roland Boer and Christina Petterson

Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2014)

Preface

How do the early ideologues of capitalism engage with the Bible and theology? Why do they wrestle with the Bible in constructing myths to justify what was still a new economic order? What is it like to read those whom Marx read when researching Capital? These are some of the questions that played in our minds as we read, discussed, and wrote this book, Idols of Nations. Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Malthus are our concerns, and into their thoughts we have delved. We have been intrigued, surprised, exasperated, underwhelmed at their banalities, and laughed out loud at their often astonishing contortions as they sought to retell biblical stories. Or rather, they try to retell the story of the Fall, and of Adam more generally, finding there the origins of private property, self-interest, labor, exchange, commerce, law, states, and what have you. In the process, greed becomes a social benefit, acquisitiveness part of the divine plan, and labor a result of God’s command to subdue the earth. Idols indeed, worshipped and justified by a text that systematically condemns those idols. After all, it takes some deft story-telling to make the text say almost exactly the opposite of what it does say.

In the process of writing, we have been assisted by those … To all these people, we are extremely thankful.

As we read and wrote, we were always mindful of the fact that we were treading in Marx’s footsteps to some extent. These were the same texts he read in the slow process of writing Capital. Although we cannot hope to match his critique and insight, we have undertaken this project with a similar approach: to ascertain the patterns of argument, the myth-making, and blind spots of what became the ideological carapace for capitalism.

On the Кра́сная стрела́ (Red Arrow) train

Somewhere between St. Petersburg and Moscow

September 2013

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1: Hugo Grotius: Rewriting the Narrative of the Fall

Softening the Fall

Retelling the Myth

The Paradox of Liberalism

Class, or, The View from the Height

Chapter 2: John Locke and the Trouble with Adam

Something About Adam

Freedom

Reason

Self-Interest

A Myth Retold – Again

Setting the Scene

The Commons

Use and Appropriation

Labor

Tilling the Earth

Adam and the Plot Lines of the Fall

Downcast Ending

Conclusion: On Human Nature and Biblical Limitations

Chapter 3: Adam Smith the Story-Teller

Human Nature

Truck, Barter, and Exchange

Self-Love and the Invisible Hand

Tall Tales

Sayings, Moral Tales, and Vignettes

Parables

Myths

In the Rude State of Society: The Foundation Myth

In Ancient Times

Conclusion: On Myth, Utopia, and Transitions

Chapter 4: The Lust and Hunger of Thomas Malthus

A Melancholy Hue: On Human Nature

Fallen Creatures

Misery, Vice, and Perfectibility

Retelling and Retelling the Myth

From Savagery to Civilization

The Basic Postulata: The Reverend’s Lust and Hunger

The Traps of God’s Good Gifts

Facing up to Evil

Conclusion: On Good and Evil

Conclusion

September 2013

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