Saturday, February 10, 2007

Distributism 101


In Athos' Profile, the reader may notice an interest in Distributism. What's that? In the late 19th / early 20th centuries, proponents of Distributism included Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton and Father Vincent McNabb, and all three penned books attempting to steer western societies away from both socialism and capitalism in favor of Distributism. Co-founders of the Catholic Worker, Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day attempted an urban version of it (difficult to do in New York City) and a purer form of it in a rural setting (still practiced at Peter Maurin Farm). Perhaps more in the reader's memory is the most celebrated and recent expression of Distributism, Small is Beautiful, by E. F. Schumacher. This nearly ubiquitous book twenty-five years ago stirred the imagination, if not stirring to action, the generations most affected by the return-to-nature elements of the sixties and seventies.

Distributism isn't simply a Luddite response to the alienation of modern technocratic, microwave/Bluetooth/laptop/iPod-dependent life. It was, and is, a serious response to both the Industrial Revolution and a true spiritual need for human beings to belong on the land. Their land. Distributism says, humans are really Hobbits at heart. We become slightly, moderately, or gravely disordered when we get too far from this reality.

Distributism is grounded in the Church's teachings. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued the Encyclical, Rerum Novarum. It is the Church's teaching on labor and capital, as well as the proper role of the modern State. It says a great deal about human nature, dignity, and justice. Sadly, it says a great deal more than modern states or captains of industry and commerce want to hear -- so it is ignored.

But Distributism is not meant for the shelf. Distributism is not a theologized hippie's dream. I suggest strongly that the reader refer to the website, bibliography, and ideas found here. There may be hope for sane human living. And it is a goal that is scriptural, doable, and hopeful. Don't you think?


45 comments:

Aramis said...

by Aramis,

Dear dear Athos, what is there to do? Your post has garnered no comments, not even a snide one. There may be hope that Porthos may try to put something together for Distributism 101, but with the sweep of the hour hand and no post I think we must conclude that this topic has a steep up hill battle for dialogue let along acceptance.

I am a business person. That means that imitation, by trade, is recognized and encouraged as my first instinct. You put out all the fine literature, Catholic and otherwise, but if I have no hands-on proven models to mimic, there is not much hope that I will grasp the concept. I perused the sites that you linked and saw nothing that looked as though they lifted up any on-going models that have sustained, living past a charismatic founder and into a 2nd or 3rd generation. (My family business is into the 3rd generation with 2 members of the 4th generation employed in it.) The Catholic Worker may be the exception, and if so, why don’t we all (and how many would there be) simply merge into the CW movement? What’s wrong with that?

I love the concept. The concept is fully enmeshed in the living and breathing body of Christ, the Church. This requires a full conversion of a people made up of interdividuals. In my opinion the economic model of Distributism comes only after conversion – I cannot see how it can work as a practical economic system without conversion.

Porthos said...

Wull, I might as well chime in, though both of you are quite beyond me on Distributism and the living realities of business and how either apply to the lived faith . . .

That said, there are some fine sentiments in Distributism, though I think Aramis is right to ask, does this go beyond sentiment--does it go, in other words, beyond our ethical/aesthetic repulsion to consumerism on the one hand and our dream of economic justice on the other?

I read Chesterton's Outline of Sanity at Athos' urging, a fine manifesto of distributism. What strikes me now, though, is that Chesterton was looking at a different world--ravages of Industrialism and the loss of the pastoral and so forth.

Now, we've got a different set of issues, mainly those suggested above:

1) the post-industrial service industry society with marketable skills and equity and stock options and all that stuff--in other words quite a lot of freedom and mobility and a huge amount of buying power. How do you tell an upwardly mobile MCMansion owner that he needs to have his own piece of land. He already has a piece of land; he can sell it an move to another.

The other problem is the mass moral corruption of a consumer/commodity society. But distributism does not directly address this, because this was not the world Chesterton was looking at. He was looking at capitalist fat cats. We're looking at millions and millions of "fat cats" and can even identify symptoms in ourselves. What do we do? It's a huge moral problem. This is Babylon. We have arrived. Probably all three of us would like personally to throw it off and join a monastary, but we've got commitments to keep. What does Distrib. have to do with this, though? I don't know.

2) Economic development in the undeveloped world--this is the scandal, and a scandal not mitigated that we've got whole NGO bureaucracies set-up to assauge our guilt without materially effecting the core problems. Now, here, "small is beautiful" solutions have a place. Witness the Grameen Bank (otherwise known as micro-credit). Micro-credit is not based on land ownership, though, but on accountability and opportunity and community, etc.

Athos said...

Thanks for your delving into Distributism, gents. There are a rather astonishing assortment of fairly modern to very recent films that promote it, from the classic silent Metropolis to Frank Capra's Lost Horizon to Gilliam's Brazil to Babe (the first, NOT the sequel) to Batman Begins (think about Bruce Wayne's father, Thomas, and his concern for Gotham city and its people).

The family business, Aramis, most definitely sets its sights not to become the superstore that gobbles up all rivals: that is Distributist in my book.

And the educator? Well, unless you have the drive and head for working your way into school administration and then ruthlessly carve your way up the ladder, you don't look at six figure salaries.

And a private Catholic school teacher has a vvery different set of values than the capitalist.

I want someday to look at modern expressions of Distributism: what is actually doable and IS being done.

The micro-credit paradigm, Porthos, is a really cool expression in developing nations.

Aramis said...

Dear Athos,

The blog is about Squaring the Circle of Our Rad Trad Catholic Girardian Conserberalism******* all 4 1 & 1 4 all

Is distributism a rival to socialism and capitalism, as an economic worldview? I find this a no-go. I see distributism as simply a component, at best, only through a Catholicism or Christianity worldview, and not as a worldview. Is it the upside-down worldview that Christ was trying to get us to see?

This topic I find related to the 'culture wars' one - where we put all weight on culture or economic system as the determining force in the world -- leaving Christianity as a sidebar if even giving it credit at all.

It seems to me that a humanity grounded in a more Gospel oriented life may likely find its way to distributism, as I cannot see how distributism will flourish any other way.

Athos said...

You forget, or perhaps didn't notice, that the Holy Father Leo XIII provided the grounding for Distributism plain and simple. It is nothing other than what you aptly affirm in your comment (above).

Since we humans can't turn away from economics (Gr. 'household' matters), it does behoove us to ask what kind of economics are most in keeping with the Lord of history and his Church's faithful teachings. Or, am I missing your critique somehow?

Aramis said...

Athos, you are right on. So distributism is all about evangelization then. As I see it, MT shows the major problems with any worldview that is economic based. Distributism, being a subset of Christianity, therefore has merit as an economic system. And the best way to broaden the appeal of distributism is by way of evangelizing and not by way of debating its merits over-against capitalism or socialism.

Athos said...

One more thing, Aramis: don't misconstrue me on D. If a person has a gift at turning a buck at business, God bless him! Absolutely nothing with that. Look at the example of Tom Monaghan, the devout Catholic who founded Dominos Pizza. Through his ability Ave Maria University will become a reality in Florida.

But I will be honest and say that trying to circumscribe discussion by your saying,

"The blog is about Squaring the Circle of Our Rad Trad Catholic Girardian Conserberalism******* all 4 1 & 1 4 all"

was a bit off putting.

Porthos said...

The crunchy-cons (as far as I could determine) are distributionist and say a lot of sensible things. In following the crunchy discussion, however, I could not come to many firm conclusions, other than "I changed my job and moved to the country and you should, too!" Well, maybe I should, maybe I should not. ?? Scripture and tradition are not crystal clear on that one. Ditto about the land of my birth and so forth; I would not welcome the suggestion that I would be living better and more authentically if I moved back to the land/region of origin. Uh, I don't THINK sooooooo.

Rerum Novarum (and JPII's recollection Encyclical about it 100 years later) stand on their own. In my view DIstributism is one (or a couple of) particular ways of interpreting/applying it, and not sure it incorporates the further development represented by the newer encyclical.. And again, Distributism doesn't seem to address (because it was not set-tup to address) the newer economic realities of skills and liquid assets and stock options and all that, and the ravages of consumer culture--or at least it has not in any form I've read about--except in a sort of a romantic way.

Again, I'm not sure the problems of either the overdeveloped world or the underdeveloped world can be defined or addressed in terms of land ownership per se.

One can say, as a Christian, don't get caught up in consumer culture; resist it, live differently. It makes a lot of sense, though I guess one does not have to be a Distributist to arrive at that conclusion or to articulate it.

Athos said...

Unlike the crunchy con phenomenon (Rod Dreher is, for the moment, Orthodox), Distributism is about the best economic system available to Catholics who want an alternative to the plethora of undesirable secular systems of economics. Aramis is correct saying its merit comes from it being a subset (or interpretation a la Porthos) of Catholic teaching.

But lest one think old Athos is a bit loopy in clinging to an arcane set of authors (Chesterton, Belloc, et al) and rather ignorant of the true economic scene (well, you have me there), there are those who devout an appreciable amount of effort to the Church's social teachings to the modern world AND publishing works of prominent dead authors, the Church being the "democracy of the dead." For example, HIS Press.

So, one sees, the modern who wants to associate himself with those of noble spirit and economic concern - Our Lord spoke more on the rich/poor divide than on nearly any other topic, standing as he did in the prophetic line and spirit - is not a orphan bereft of forebears. Rather, he sees that an essential part of being human on earth is not being a sad cog in machinations and forces and high tech contrivances that alienate; but shares a true identity of life and love that includes bringing forth life anew on the land. However impossible that dream may, at the moment, be from fruition.

Porthos said...

Well, OK, we are all no doubt going to dig on the authors you are mentioning! There is no question of our sympathies being with you, or our spiritual preferences. But, you are presenting an argument from authority, not an "argument" argument, as in "let me engage your questions and objections so that you can understand why Distributism is good and valid." But that means we don't have to think much about Distributism, except perhaps to remember that Athos likes it. Is that good enough for you?

Speaking of appeals to authority, though, I think one of the main Crunchies, Caleb Stegall (I've exchanged an email or two with the guy) is very much a Distributionist in spirit and practice, though not (yet) a Catholic. (He was also the main force behind the now discontinued New Pantagruel.)

The economic models for the developing world is also still a big issue for me. This is why this really starts splitting off into two issues: for the first world we want more people to choose less, for the second world we want people to have more. Land ownership does not address, I think, the second, because your average country land owner, barely scraping by, may very well want to throw it all up and go look for work in the teaming city. No pastoral romance for those folks--they just want to eat, to make it.

Athos said...

Ultimately, all arguments are "from authority," Porthos. Every argument comes down to epistemological trust, since the a prioris from which one begins and examines the same data ("facts") are based on faith, not proof.

John Cardinal Henry Newman said, in the last analysis when one has gathered as much information necessary for one to make a decision, there is an "illative" proof rather than one based on strict logic. The accumulation of pointers leading one, say, to conversion into the Church, are overwhelming as a group; individually, not.

That is why, I suppose, not everyone IS a Catholic! And I, for one, see Distributism not as a "pastoral romance" (no more than a hard-nosed secularist sees Catholicism a superstitious fairy tale) but a consensus off-shoot of the Church's social teachings and a vision, in my mind, of what human life should look like.

Does this mean we should not "do" technology? Not at all. But it should be used in accord with the virtues and the Church's teachings on faith and morals; justice being, as St Thomas said, "giving God and your neighbor their due."

A cool expression of this knowledge of/careful use of technology can be seen in the Star Trek film, "Insurrection".

Porthos said...

Well, there's an argument from authority where 1) you go over why the authorities make the argument and why it's good, and then there's the argument from authority where 2) you refer all questions and challenges to with a sweep of the hand to a given chorus respected voices: "Well, be that as it may, X, Y and Z think it's pretty cool. So there!" The latter informs and directs inquiry, maybe, but does not (to me) clarify or advance discourse. So, IMO, we are not advancing here in understanding or laying open Distributism. Questions and challenges are put off and redirected to a list of preferred names who think Distributism is neat . . .

Athos said...

Which is probably the reason that comments on a blog, like email sound bite discussions, are not the place to carry out extended attempts at persuasive discourse on the merits of something one values with those who don't. One is apt to receive criticism about one's lack of intellectual rigor and other really good stuff like that.

Athos said...

All right, all right, Porthos. Let's start with these two statements you make,

"Again, I'm not sure the problems of either the overdeveloped world or the underdeveloped world can be defined or addressed in terms of land ownership per se" and

"The economic models for the developing world is also still a big issue for me. This is why this really starts splitting off into two issues: for the first world we want more people to choose less, for the second world we want people to have more."

First, yes, Distributism was born in England in response to a specific historical set of problems both industrial and economic. Is is still applicable universally? No. Does it have something worthwhile to say to westerners, specifically Catholic westerners that goes to the heart of life lived well as a modern Catholic? I will say a qualified Yes, knowing I won't convince you of it on the grounds of what I have shared so far. And that's fair. But I will say the following.

Ownership and stewardship of land is a significant part of Distributism, but not the only distinguishing characteristic of it. Nor is land ownership and stewardship the moral equivalent of pulling up the life rafts and forgetting about the tragedies in developing countries.

Saying that "The economic models for the developing world is also still a big issue for me" is like sporting a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker: it advertises moral superiority, but it does nothing the situation. How big is it for you, Porthos? Selling your property to help refugees in Sudan?

The elements of Distributism I am interested in encourage me to begin where I am and do what I can, not what I cannot.

I can't make a big impact on economic models for developing countries. I can try to get out and stay out of debt; I can work in a way that reduces injustice and passes on values taught by Mother Church; I can espouse practical steps that I will list from the Distributist website ... at least the ones that are feasible.

Forgive the lack of sophistication that I am apparently exhibiting here, but I don't see any true superiority in your idealism as inertia.

Aramis said...

Boy the flood gates opened up and you can't shut off the comments...

In a previous comment Athos linked to: IHS Press which linked to http://www.ihspress.com/whatsnew.htm
Distributist Perspectives Subtitled "Essays on the Economics of Justice and Charity". Whose justice and charity? Okay, we know Whose, but does anyone else know? Virtually all proponents of any economic system will point to justice and charity, and they will be half right.

The economic or business sense of St. Paul, the tent-maker, could very well be based on a later concept of distributism. The important aspect however was that it was clearly based on imitation. Maybe it is not the immediate hands-on instructions of how-to, but it is the imitation of desire and the full ramification of desire. Imitation or mimesis as we think of it needs a lot of work to begin to be understood, and I for one believe it is this work that is more crucial than raising up 'competing' and rivalistic economic concepts. For as soon as we get in that tit-for-tat game of one-upmanship we have already fallen into their trap.

This means that a cross-pollination of thoughts would need to occur in what usually are disciplines that are difficult to get into – imitating somewhat Girard’s academic career.

Athos said...

Leave it to Aramis to bring the discussion around to mimetic theory.

Bless you, for you are a blessing.

Where is that D'Artagnon, the young scamp? I want to ask him a question about the Holy Shroud of Turin.

Porthos said...

Athos: "Saying that "The economic models for the developing world is also still a big issue for me" is like sporting a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker: it advertises moral superiority, but it does nothing the situation. How big is it for you, Porthos? Selling your property to help refugees in Sudan?"

Quite uncalled for, Ath. You miss the point of why I was bringing that up, and if you must know, I have little or no control of my money or property--a source of emotional/spiritual torture for me as a Christian for over two decades. I was actually making progress on that recently, until just now, that is.

I'm not asking you to prefer my "inertia" model (if I did, I would post an "Inertia 101" post). I just see certain tough problems in the developed and underdeveloped world. Does Distributism address them? I wouldn't know from reading anything you wrote here, or from anything you link from here.

You're right about the limitations of blog discourse, though. But that's one thing I DO have control over. Like cigarettes!

Athos said...

At least I got your attention. I'd like to read your Inertia 101.

Call it frustration at agreeing on so much and then hitting the inevitable point of disagreement, and not understanding why.

Bailie is the true generalist, issuing such statements and quotations as, "Because people ceased to believe in God, the steam engine needed to be invented." Some see it as an insurmountable leap; others as a flash of brilliant insight.

I see Distributism as the latter; you, obviously, the former.

And thus we stand!

Selah.

Porthos said...

No, you're quite wrong about what I think, and you make way too many assumptions. My (limited) point is: Distributism is way cool. But, 1) How does it apply to the mass consumption, post-industrial, service industry society? Even Chesterton--certainly one of the more far-seeing of thinkers--did not envision the way things are now. 2) How does it apply to the developing world? Schumaker (sp?) is worth a read again on that score--it's been ages, and I was neither Christian nor Catholic when I read him.

I think you can work on this a bit, Ath: just because I don't jump up and down and say, "Yeah, Distributism!!!" -- this does not mean I "hate" Distributism, ok? Exercise your distinguishing faculties a bit, there. Please.

I have some totally undeveloped ideas about the "market" which are actually VERY similar to Gil Bailie's notion about the steam engine that you quote above. The "free market" flows out of Christianity, absolutely--specifically, it flows (in kind of a twisted but unmistakable way) out of the Eucharist (the pacific feast). Gans is the one to articulate this, but a lot of mimetic folks dismiss Gans out of hand, because he "plugs" the market. HOWEVER, this is "green guilt" kicking in--that is, Gans must be denounced as part of the ritual denunciation of Capitalism--the reaction of guilty consumers, of which I am certainly one, though I resist this particular reaction, because I think Gans is onto something. If I ever wrote the "intertia" post, it would be along those lines.

Or let me put it this way: Gans IS a Distributist. In the same way, Andy Warhol is a Distributist. Toke on that for a while and tell me what purple elephants you can see. Maybe I just went down to the corner and scored some bum stuff. I don't know yet.

Toke on this, too: James Williams said Gans was "Girard without the Cross." Here's what I say: Mimetic theory, without GA, is Girard without the Eucharist. Mimetic theory has no Anthropology of the Eucharist. GA does. Kind of.

Athos said...

The hyperactivity and volitility of your mental ratiocinations and cerebrations, Porthos - since you speak of toking - leave one breathless. Your synapses are sparking big time. Whoa! Whew! 'Dem some mighty fine thoughts flying, boy. Yassir!

Whether you mean to or not, it seems that you want to show that you can pick up any topic mentioned by one with whom you are toying and then you run circles around said person with a semi serious, semi flippant display of fencing dexterity and skill.

Okay, wild child. Have at it, but
I haven't a clue what you mean by "Mimetic theory, without GA, is Girard without the Eucharist. Mimetic theory has no Anthropology of the Eucharist. GA does. Kind of." But I can't agree that GA has any informed kind of Eucharistic theology because any thing resembling Eucharistic theology would include an ecclesiology, which Gans clearly does not have.

MT, on the other hand and as Jas Williams notes in that fine article cited above, is fully posited on the uniqueness of the canonical Scriptures in their expose of a great many things. And, as such, MT acknowledges a presupposition about the uniqueness of the Catholic Church out of whose Tradition sprang Sacred Scripture. And the same Tradition that sprang Sacred Scripture is the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Our Lord.

So if you want to show me that you can make generalizations and leaps in logical conclusions better than the best of 'em, that's fine: be a whirlygig. We'll be right here enjoying the show!

Porthos said...

Not toying around and not trying to mess with you. I'm not like that, for goodness' sake! (What kind of picture do you have of me, Ath? I'm a bit taken aback!)

No, I haven't worked through it all yet. But I'm telling you, the tone of discourse around here would have to change before I even tried.

I'm quite serious about what I've written above, though quite possibly wrong. I insist on being taken a little bit seriously, though. I'm not playing games, and I would insist that my Massketeer interlocutor recognize that.

No can do that, no can have discourse on topic.

Ecclessiology is a bit over my head. I'm thinking through it in much more basic building blocks.

Athos said...

Then apologies for the misapprehension, good fellow Porthos. Rather than talk about how we talk, let me ask again about this statement of yours,

Mimetic theory, without GA, is Girard without the Eucharist. Mimetic theory has no Anthropology of the Eucharist. GA does. Kind of.

GA has within it an Eucharistic element? And MT no anthropology of the Eucharist? I just don't see it. Help me connect the lines, please.

And, BTW, I have begun praying for the conversion of sinners as per the words of OLOL to St Bernadette.

Best, A.

Porthos said...

Good, on that last bit! Maybe that's all that really matters!

It would take a while to develop, and I'm not sure I should do it on your thread. Your phrase "a Eucharistic element" is the right way to say it, though, because I am not saying Gans has a doctrinaire teaching on the Eucharist--I'm just saying he has an anthropology of the Eucharist.

But start with Girard and MT. Even as you state it above, Girard's Ecclesiology and Eucharistic extrapolation is just that, an extrapolation, and incidentally one made by others and not Girard himself. As you state it:

"MT, on the other hand and as Jas Williams notes in that fine article cited above, is fully posited on the uniqueness of the canonical Scriptures in their expose of a great many things. And, as such, MT acknowledges a presupposition about the uniqueness of the Catholic Church out of whose Tradition sprang Sacred Scripture. And the same Tradition that sprang Sacred Scripture is the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Our Lord."

It takes a lot of connecting points, in your paragraph, to get from MT to Ecclesiology and the Eucharist, and these connecting points are not supplied by anything in MT itself, but must be "imported," as it were. For Gans (and maybe the fact that he has no particular theological axe to grind makes this more remarkable) the Eucharist and sacramental system are there from the git go: there is the reaching for the center, the breaking up of the appetitive object, the system of representation (sensible signs!), the pacific feast that transforms the all for all war into the instrument of peace.

Don't get me wrong, GA is indeed Girard without the cross. But MT is also Girard without the Eucharist.

MT is Christianity for atheists.

GA is Catholicism for atheists.

Athos said...

Porthos, you say:

For Gans ... there is the reaching for the center, the breaking up of the appetitive object, the system of representation (sensible signs!), the pacific feast that transforms the all for all war into the instrument of peace.

My problem with Gans' originary scene (above) is it is parody of the Eucharist, and a banal one at that. It posits a non-lapsarian politeness, or at worst a I-know-I'll-get-my-ass-whooped-if-I-grab-for-the-object-of-desire kind of human interaction totally at odds with real-time human nature and behavior. A sort of 60's pipe dream: "come awon people now, let's get together ..."

And that is all supposed to happen BEFORE culture even begins, language evolves, and ritual, etc. A eucharistic event without precedent. Hmmm.

The Eucharist, otoh, is indeed a ritual, looked at coldly. From within the Church, it is a bloodless sacrifice, the real deal given for eternity that could only be needed BECAUSE of the Fall, the rejection of the Torah, the prophets, and every other means that God attempted in salvation history.

Just because Gans mimicks the Eucharist does not mean, in my book, that there is even an eucharistic element in his GA system. That's my take, or toke. Whatever.

Porthos said...

OK, Ath, but I don't think that's a fair characterization of the originary scene--prelapsarian politeness (In Gans' scenario the scene is quite fraught and terrifying)--and you're a tad tendentious. One could be just as tendentiously dismissive of Girard's "orignary event": we got our rocks off slaying the scapegoat and that warm Peace Feeling is enough to hold us together--without any ability to communicate it or signify it or distribute the goods without causing another ruckus. (Oh, and forget about that Adam and Eve stuff, OK? It's really about Cain and Abel.). In essence, every objection you've raised against GA could be raised against MT.

There are problems with taking either GA or MT as a total theological system, obviously. But GA does not pretend to be a total theological system, while MT, sometimes it seems, does.

To be honest, I have not committed myself either to the Girardian or Gansian scenario (I have no access to a time tunnel with digicam to film the originary event) but I think some of the GA objections are legit and some of the gap filling proposed in GA is justifiable.

Gans' not a full blown theology of the Eucharist, mind you, but MT has, basically, none at all.

Part of my point (yet unarticulated) is (maybe) that Gans does not so much succeed in describing an original Eucharist (in fact, he makes no such claim--I sort of extrapolated it myself), but delineates the elements in such a way that the Eucharist (and Sacramental system) make anthropological sense--I mean as answering this deep human need that nothing else would, or could.

[If this is a parody (you may be right) than it would be very important for me to find out why and in what way.]

When that need is answered, the Eucharist indirectly makes the market society possible (now THAT'S a parody) because the Eucharist, the pacific feast, spills out of the church in unexpected ways. Yes, there is counterfeiting, but there is also counterfeiting in Girard's system (e.g. victimology), some of which Girard himself discusses (e.g. in I See Satan Fall Like Lightning).

For me, sure, consumerism is, in fact, a kind of parody of the Eucharist, just as celebrity culture is a parody of the Communion of Saints. So . . . your "parody" thing, rather than being a debating point for us to whack each other with, is actually rather key, and should be explored.

Aramis said...

Dear Gents, let me throw something in here: Porthos may have stumbled into the reason for so much disagreement:
“To be honest, I have not committed myself either to the Girardian or Gansian scenario…”

Earlier comment Athos admitted to his full acceptance of Distributism.

You have one committed and one non-committing.

Athos, I believe agreed with my assessment that Distributism is more like a sub-set of Christianity then a free-standing, intellectual and practiced economic system. In other words, if you remove Christianity from any talk of Distributism I do not believe the system has any hope. And unless one has taken the plunge of following this path in faith I don’t think one is going to “get it”.

I am not suggesting Porthos is not of faith. NO! He is though limiting his faith in some possible facets that revolve around the faith, like MT and Distributism, just like many other people I suppose.

Today, Thursday 2/15 Gospel reading: "Who do you say that I am?"

Girard says in a number of sources (from the Conversion series tape #11) that we cannot deconstruct these things that have us in their grip which is why we need the sacraments.

Porthos has remained on the outside of the grip of MT and therefore I believe will have some difficulty grasping some of its deeper implications. Athos, is a possibly deeper implication being Distributism? I think it might but like I said in one of my earlier comments, more evangelization is needed and MT itself needs to be understood better with teachable and modeling examples in hand. But again, it seems this will always be an uphill struggle for it is all about Christ and accepting Christ – and being a new creation.

“So who do you say that I am?” is very much a necessary step in this discussion because it doesn’t make sense from within our human thought processes, but only in a leap of faith. Distributism, in my humble opinion falls into this leap of faith as it is a subset of Christianity.

Athos said...

Well, Porthos, old chap, I like you don't think one can compare the two, GA and MT, using historiography; in fact, one can't "prove" either using the scientific method (or the string theory in physics, for that matter).

Your accusation of my being tendentious is a bit provocative, so I won't call your setting up Girard's founding violence the way you do (above) a straw man and disingenuous. Instead, I will follow your lead re: 'parody'.

Your picking up my use of the word parody is helpful, I agree; but it may be more accurately thematized as false or deviated transcendence (consumerism, celebrity) as a bait and switch con game for those who have lost the subtle ability to savor true transcendence mediated through the Christian revelation and faith therein.

These examples are the fairly innocuous looking expressions of the sacred - at the upper, slow moving rim of the vortex of the sacred. (Other examples: psychoanalysis substituted for Penance; Masonic Lodge "floor work" in place of Catholic liturgy; individualism in place of authentic conversion and personhood in Christ).

Things get spookier and uglier farther down and into the speeding vortex: Stalinist and Maoist communism; ritualistic satanism (cf. Dawn Perlmutter's work); pop culture's cults of self fulfillment whilst millions of unborn children are snuffed because they are "inconvenient" and "unwanted".

Bailie has said that where MT collides with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the former should be taken with a grain of salt. Too, he wrote and told me that Girard (and he, Gil) would welcome the opportunity to come before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, much as Henri DeLubac did in the sixties to defend his theology.

Why? Because mimetic theory is based solidly on the deconstructive dynamis of the Gospel. Is GA? I don't think so, past your intuitive and, honestly, personal leap of seeing a eucharistic connection.

Or, are you seeing something else that I'm not?

Athos said...

Aramis, very nice reflections above. Thank you! Your comment here especialy:

“So who do you say that I am?” is very much a necessary step in this discussion because it doesn’t make sense from within our human thought processes, but only in a leap of faith. Distributism, in my humble opinion falls into this leap of faith as it is a subset of Christianity.

Like my leap of faith into the arms of Mother Church, I chose my company very carefully, always with the question in my mind: "Who are you going to trust?" My trustworthy guides - G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, E. F. Schumacher ... on and on - knew something about economics, human labor and dignity that I am only coming to understand and may never fully do so.

But what I DO believe is in those with whom I shared this leap of faith into Catholicism because of their witness, words and lives as Catholics. The "subset" of Christianity notion that you share is only because of the company of those who reflect Jesus, the Word made flesh, in their loving gaze in looking at Him. I see it in their eyes.

Porthos said...

This is no doubt a factor of personality traits (as delineated by that personality test Athos told us about a month or two ago), but to me, we are, at this point, talking about 15-20 different topics. It seems impossible to me to that we could talk sensibly or effectively about any of them without prying them apart a bit or making reasonable distinctions. Also, everything seems to circle back to affirmations of faith, but we are of the same faith here, so that seems somewhat superfluous--but maybe not: a healthy reminder may be good (for instance, repeating our Creed in daily devotions doesn't hurt none!).

However, to take it back a little, is the steam engine "deviated transcendancy"? To me, it's derived from transcendancy (as Gil Bailie posits, in Athos' helpful reference)--derived from the inbreaking of God on earth--but is not in and of itself deviated transcendancy. In simple terms, I suppose I think much the same re: global exchange system, or "market"--that monstrous force that gets all kinds of goods and services circulating, in a frighteningly effective, unprecedented manner.

Or is this too neutral? Is the market, in fact, evil itself, that is, no mere steam engine? Actually, I do not know the answer to that question (and I am not presenting it as a mental "game").

Porthos said...

Aramis: "Porthos has remained on the outside of the grip of MT and therefore I believe will have some difficulty grasping some of its deeper implications."

With all due respect, guy, I think I've plumbed MT as deeply as you two have, and probably for about the same length of time and through about the same amount of reading material (and also, through the same stage of conversion process, interestingly enough!). I don't necessarily accept all of the exptrapolations made by Girard and Girardians. There's a difference, or at least I think there is.

I could be wrong, and just don't "gestalt it" right, as you suggest, or I could be right, and might be playing my role as one teeny tiny hedge influencing my friends against possible error.

Full-throttle Girardianism may be just a tad big for its britches, you know.

Athos said...

I took Aramis to mean that you had not fallen under the sway of MT the way he and I have. It wasn't disparaging your knowledge of MT. He was saying the same thing as your "I don't necessarily accept all of the exptrapolations made by Girard and Girardians," that's all.

And I agree that "Full-throttle Girardianism may be just a tad big for its britches..." Which is why Girard and Bailie bow right reverently to the Magisterium.

But as a tool for the Magisterium, mimetic theory is the Swiss Army knife in terms of cultural anthropology.

But, for a non-starter so far as comments go, this became quite a doozy.

Aramis said...

Before throwing in the towel and admitting that there is not way I can keep up with you guys let me say that this has been a fun ride of comments. Not to be argumentative, however trying to reason with reason...

Porthos commented: (Oh, and forget about that Adam and Eve stuff, OK? It's really about Cain and Abel.)

Using that line of reason I think you could conclude with today's (2/16) reading that first you have Adam and Eve (JPII) after that, Cain and Abel (Girard) and then comes language (GA), Gen 11.

So I guess the Church wins again.

Aramis said...

Hate to admit this … I kneel in-between you guys for I am no match.

So let me say: yes to Athos’ comment here: "I took Aramis to mean that you had not fallen under the sway of MT the way he and I have. It wasn't disparaging your knowledge of MT. He was saying the same thing as your "I don't necessarily accept all of the extrapolations made by Girard and Girardians," that's all."

And I agree with Porthos that Distributism is far from having an enlightened and reasoned explanation that would lend one to simply venture into its grip. This is what I have been trying to say all along, that Distributism requires a leap of faith, not reason; and Athos provides the names of those for whom you must have faith in so to make the leap: G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, E. F. Schumacher, and more.

From a Girardian perspective I only add that mimesis has to be realized as THE crucial aspect to any economic system, but particularly Distributism. And until we have a much broader understanding of the importance of how mimesis plays out in our lives and society all systems falter in one way or another. And that is why Jesus sends us out to evangelize the world for at the heart of it all is the imitation of Christ. And I think Athos must concur that without this component there would be no Distributism for us to even chew on. We can reason and argue all day and all night long on merits of socialism, Marxism, capitalism, etc., but not so with Distributism. Within our current human sacrificial language system I don’t believe one can get their arms fully around Distributism. It has to be lived out – practiced (which is a leap of faith) – and it can only be lived out, at least in generational terms under St. Paul’s admonishment in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. (ASV)

So let us go forth evangelizing the Good News allowing the Gospels to work on the human heart and mind, developing an economic system that is just and charitable in Christ.

So, what do you boys say, next post?

Athos said...

One last point or two re: the original notion of Distributism. Mimesis of a positive nature would be of absolute importance. The idea of being answerable to a GUILD, in which standards are agreed upon, amount of goods/services are limited for the good of all members, lack of monopolizing and use of loss leaders -- all are not found in capitalism or socialism.

A major shared virtue to be modeled and mimicked is concern for the common weal and subducting of self interest for the common good.

Best/blessings, Athos

Aramis said...

You write: "A major shared virtue to be modeled and mimicked is concern for the common weal and subducting of self interest for the common good."

This is simply smoke - a pipe dream - humanism, that is without Christ. Are you saying that we did NOT need the Gospels? That all we need is a shared virtue and we can mimic and model THAT (whatever that is) shared virtue?

I just don't think it can happen without Christ.

Athos said...

How are you even asking those questions, Aramis, when I've said that Distributism is grounded in Catholic doctrine? Apparently my words have carried little weight in this long and rather fruitless exchange.

Your words are near scandalized kneejerk reaction, Aramis? What on earth ...

I am merely saying that positive mimesis, GROUNDED in faith, hope and love in Christ and his Church (again) is elemental to Distributism.

Aramis said...

Alas, Aramis plays the fool again. Sorry Ath for misinterpreting your prior post about being answerable to a guild. Your summary statement in this last comment above says it all. Sorry for my old-foot-in-the mouth shtick.

Athos said...

Not at all, dear fellow. It's just that I thought you two would see that what is evident in the quotation below is relevant to how we do commerce with one another and not just think pious thoughts.

“Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’ will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my own achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time.”

- Thomas Merton


Thing is, guilds and distributism WORKED in the Middle Ages. The only thing keeping it from being tried again, is the assurance that it won't work. That people are just too greedy, used to the way bidness is done now.

I liken it to bringing someone from a culture where the gospel has had no effect ... to America, where culture is still quite Christ-haunted. "It would never work in my country," they would probably say.

Merton's words, my dear Aramis, are so, so true. Thanks for sharing them.

Aramis said...

You know Ath, I have always struggled with the thought that says "it WORKED" in the past... don't know why, but I just have. After reading Open Book today I think I am warming up to Amy Welborn's new post "...my theory of everything":

http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2007/02/presenting.html

Everything will eventually go haywire.

Therefore, it is safest to have deeply-rooted, concrete, content-rich, standards and reference points expressive of tradition as our framework in order to keep us even within shouting distance of the original vision, aka The Truth.

Porthos said...

[OK, so I'm being too touchy. You want a make something of it? Huh? And what about you? You tawkina me? Yeah? You?]

I think Aramis is right on this point: that one thing we can agree on is the mimetic consitution of the self (about the interdividual psychology of MT, I assure youse, I am fully on board). So, how that relates to economics, exchange . . . at any rate, an important starting point. And as a business person, without question, Aramis knows stuff on this that Ath and Porth don't, so Ar, don't be shy.

One thing we're getting into (here comes my hair-splitting again) is: are we speaking for Catholics, for Christians, for the whole world? That is, A) "I'm just talking about what will help faithful Catholics deal with the whacko economic world we live in." B) "I'm talking about universal principles that--though rooted in Catholic truth--can help everyone."

As an example, let's think of birth control. Here's a position that the Church, almost alone in the world, takes, and it's hard to get even a lot of Catholics on board. Yet it is grounded in truths about the human person and turns out to be true for the whole world (that still largely rejects it) in rather profound social, political, economic, personal, moral and spiritual ways.

But there is no comparable cut-and-dried teaching on economics, EXCEPT, perhaps, distributism. However, distributism is not direct teaching but lay extrapolation from encyclicals on economics and social justice, and it's current expression (there have really been massive developments in the global economic situation through the 80s, 90s and 00s) is unclear. Referring to Athos opening post, I would not discount the views of hippies--I grew up with them and still know some, and their intuitions about distributism are actually pretty sound (a lot of the positive developments in computers, software and the net, like freeware and open source software, is driven by a hippy ethos which is not at all bad). In the same way, I do not discount the crunchy cons and paid pretty close heed to their arguments--in fact, I would have expected Ath, as a distributionist, to have a little more sympathy for what they were up to.

I don't know about guilds and price setting very much, but here we really have to talk about the power of the market (not saying if it's good or bad, just that it's quite powerful) to control prices. Monopolies are set up to protect capitalists AGAINST market forces--competition will surely drive down the price of their controlled, hoarded products; that's why they don't want any competition. I'm not sure what contemporary monopolies you have in mind, Ath. You mean like Microsoft? Here again, our Internet hippies who do open source stuff and freeware are, in a sense, doing valiant work here in that respect.

Athos said...

A super discussion all round, large souled friends. Thank you for your patience with Athos. It's my dream, not yours (which I do think, as Porthos said, relates to my MBTI personality preferences). But I have troubled the two of you too long with my fiercely anecdotal knowledge of Distributism.

I'll let you know when I retire to tend my goats, milkcow, and guinea fowl, mucking about in me wellies. Till then, all 4 1 & 1 4 all!

Porthos said...

Guinea foul? Is that like a cross between a Guinea pig and a chicken?

Athos said...

http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Guineas/BRKGuineas.html

FYI

Porthos said...

Photo caption: "A lone male Pearl Guinea calling"

That sounds both vaguely like the story of my life, and like the header for one of those unwanted emails from Spambots.

Apropos of nothing in partic., that Missal you sent works really nicely if I have 10-20 minutes before and/or after mass--I mean, just to open up and silently read the prayers that are in there for before and after Communion. A great gift, Ath!

Athos said...

It's a pleasure to know you find it useful, Porthos. A blessed Quinquagesima Sunday to you, Aramis, and your fair ladies!