Monday, February 19, 2007

GodSpy Interview with William T. Cavanaugh

posted by Porthos

Going out on a limb, I'm guessing that the Massketeers might endorse this fellowand that even Porthos can be brought round on that. I'm sorry if this has already been linked and I missed it earlier.

Yummy, crunchy, conserberalist goodness!

You've made the argument that the Eucharist is an answer to globalization. What do you mean?

I want to be cautious about saying the Eucharist is the answer to anything. It's not magic. But it is central to a Christian way of seeing and acting. That's what I'm talking about.

In the Eucharist the global is realized in the local. Each congregation that meets has the whole Body of Christ present. It's a different way of talking about the relationship between the global and the local that doesn't have the same implications as the total dominance of the global over the local.

The other point is that the imagination of the Eucharist tends to resist the imagination of the detached consumer. This is because the Eucharist consumes us, it makes us part of the Body of Christ and takes us up into Christ. Since we know that we're members of the one Body of Christ, we can resist this idea that we're just detached individual consumers who survey the world and choose whatever we like. Now that we're a member of the Body, as Saint Paul says, the pain of one of the members is our pain as well, the pain of all.

This also would seem to imply mutual responsibility, that we really are our "brother's keeper."

Yes, exactly. It resists individualism.

When we talk about our free-market culture�, we're assuming a certain understanding of freedom. What kind of freedom is presumed and promoted in our free-market culture and where is it leading us?

The classic philosophical distinction between positive and negative freedom is that negative freedom is freedom from interference and positive freedom is the ability to do something. The kind of freedom you get in the so-called free market is not the freedom to flourish as human beings. It's negative, an absence of restrictions. This by itself isn't necessarily helpful.

In the free market, where nothing is considered objectively good, no goods that everyone necessarily ought to desire, then everybody is free to choose anything. Some choose poetry and others pornography. Everybody's free to choose whatever they want. In this kind of culture, all movement towards goods is arbitrary, and so, in the absence of a common good, all you have in the end is power.

Is this your main criticism of Walt Disney, that since companies like this have so much marketing power there's not much real choice left in the market?

Yes, that's exactly right. Disney is just an example I've used of a hugely powerful company. Whatever movies and merchandise they put out is what every kid in school is watching and has to have.

I'm trying to understand this phenomenon: If we live in such a free-market economy, how do we end up with such homogenization? How is it that in this incredibly free market you can drive three thousand miles from one end of the country to the other and the whole way you meet people listening to the same songs, wearing the same clothes, watching the same movies and TV shows, talking the same way, getting news from the same sources, and staying at the same hotels? Where does that come from?


Porthos said...

Sorry, Porthos is binge-posting a bit. Lady Porthos and charge return soon. Porthos has been going solo for about the last 3 weeks. I may fade out from the blog sightly, for a while--more infrequent postings. This will be by necessity and not choice.

Athos said...

Not at all, Porthos. What a find! I knew Cavanaugh in name only, but to find a Catholic theologian who not only is fully at one with the Magisterium AND can cite The Blues Brothers -- yowsir!

And, howlingly, his sound bite on Hauerwas:

“Stanley Hauerwas talks about Catholics like Jane Goodall talks about chimpanzees: he spent many years among them as an outsider, came to appreciate their strange practices and rituals, and grew to love them so much that he almost, but not quite, felt like one of them… Hauerwas's emphases on community, virtue, authority and sacrament have marked him as a Catholic thinker and have brought many Catholic graduate students to him, in addition to several students who have converted to Catholicism under his influence.” [Christian Century]

I look forward to digging into his work.

Athos said...

Some good fellow has compiled some Cavanaugh resources here.