Text till samtal med Marcia Cavalcante Utan gräns,  onsdagen den 15 mars 2017

Walter Benjamin: Capitalism and Religion

 In capitalism one has to realize a religion, e.g. capitalism serves essentially to satisfy the same kind of sorrows, misery, unrest, which formerly the so called religions provided with an answer … […]
We cannot pull the net, we are standing in, but later on there will be a view of it.

 But there are three features, that are even now about to be realized concerning this religious structure of capitalism. For the first capitalism is a plain cult religion, maybe the most radical which has ever been. Everything in it has meaning only immediately referring to cult; it knows no special dogmatics, no theology. The utilitarianism (“everything for the happiness of the most”) gains its religious color under this point of view.

 With this gaining of concreteness there is connection to a second feature of capitalism: the permanent duration of the cult […] there is no weekday, no day, that wouldn’t be a holiday in the dreadful meaning of unfolding of all sacred pomp, the utterly strain of the worshipper.

 This cult is, for the third, running into debt. Capitalism is probably the first case of a non-expiative but indebtive cult. In here this religious system is standing in the collapse of an immense movement.

An immense  sense of guilt, which has no notion how to de-expiate, grasps for cult, not to expiate in it, but to let it become universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself into this debt to at last have him being interested in the expiation of the debt. […]
It is in the essence of this religious movement, which is capitalism, to endure until the end, until the finally entire indebtedness of God, the reached world condition of desperation, which is just still hoped for.

 The historical outrageous of capitalism is lying in this, that religion is no longer the reformation of being but its smashing. The extension of desperation into a religious world condition out of which the salvation is to expect. Gods transcendence has fallen. But he is not dead; he is embedded in human fate.

 This passage of the human planet through the house of desperation in the perfect isolation of its orbit is the ethos that is determining Nietzsche. This human being is the “Übermensch” (Superman), the very first beginning to meet capitalistic religion by realization.

 The fourth feature is, that its God has to be concealed, may not be articulated until reaching the zenith of his indebtedness. The cult is celebrated in front of an unmatured deity. Every imagination, every concept on her hurts the secret of her maturity [ …]

 The concept of the “Übermensch” transfers the apocalyptic “jump” not into turning back, expiation, purification, penance, but into the apparent constantly, but in the last space of time bursting intermittent increase.  […] The Übermensch is that historical human that has without turning back arrived by growing through heaven.

 This blasting of heaven by increased humanity, which is and remains religious […] indebtedness …

 Capitalism is a religion of naked cult, without dogma. Capitalism has parasitically emerged […] on Christianity in the occident in such a way, that finally its history in essence is the history of its parasite, the capitalism.


(Walter Benjamin, Ges. Schriften, VI, S. 100, Frankfurt/M., 1991)