luni, 20 septembrie 2010

Deus otiosus

Industrialization and Rising Secular-Rational Values

Sustained economic growth starts with industrialization as productivity begins to outpace population growth (Landes, 1998; W. Bernstein, 2004). In agrarian societies, humanity was at the mercy of inscrutable and uncontrollable natural forces. Because their causes were dimly understood, people tended to attribute events to anthropomorphic gods. The vast majority of the population made its living from agriculture and depended on things that came from heaven, like the sun and rain. One prayed for good weather, for relief from disease, or from plagues of insects.

In industrial society, production moved indoors into a man-made environment. One did not wait for the sun to rise and the seasons to change; when it got dark, one turned on the lights, and when it got cold, one turned on the heating. One did not pray for good crops because
production came from machines that were built by human ingenuity. With the discovery of germs and antibiotics, even disease ceased to be seen as a divine visitation; it became a problem within technological control. As technology gave people increasing control over their environment, God became less central.

The shift from preindustrial to industrial society brought profound changes in people’s daily experiences and prevailing worldviews (Bell, 1973; Spier, 1996; Inglehart, 1997). Preindustrial life, Bell (1976: 147) argues, was a “game against nature” in which “one’s sense of the world is conditioned by the vicissitudes of the elements – the seasons, the storms, the fertility of the soil, the amount of water, the depth of the mine seams, the droughts and the floods.” Industrialization brought less dependence on nature, which had been seen as ruled by inscrutable forces or anthropomorphic spirits. Life now became a “game against fabricated nature” (Bell, 1973: 147), a technical, mechanical, rationalized, bureaucratic world directed toward creating and dominating the environment.

As technological control of the environment increased, the role ascribed to religion and God dwindled. Praying to God for a good harvest was no longer necessary when one could depend on fertilizer and insecticides. Materialistic ideologies arose, offering secular interpretations of history and secular utopias to be attained by human engineering operating through rationally organized bureaucratic organizations.

But these ideologies were as dogmatic as religion, reflecting the rigidly disciplined and standardized way in which industrial societies organize the work force and life in general (Whyte, 1956; Florida, 2002). Accordingly, the rise of secular-rational values does not bring a decline of authority: it only shifts the basis of authority from traditional religious sources to secular-rational sources. Rational science and its belief in technological progress becomes the new source of authority in a highly mechanical world.

One reason for the decline of traditional religious beliefs in industrial societies is that an increasing sense of technological control over nature diminishes the need for reliance on supernatural powers. In the uncertain world of subsistence societies, the belief that an infallible higher power will ensure that things ultimately turn out well filled a major psychological need. One of the key functions of religion was to provide a sense of certainty in an insecure environment.

Physical as well as economic insecurity intensifies this need: the old saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes” reflects the fact that wartime dangers increase the need for faith in a higher power. But as industrial production outpaces population growth and as scientific progress prolongs life expectancy, there is a dwindling need for the reassurance that religion traditionally provided.

In the preindustrial world, humans have little control over nature. They seek to compensate for their lack of physical control by appealing to the metaphysical powers that seem to control the world: worship is seen as a way to influence one’s fate, and it is easier to accept one’s helplessness if one knows the outcome is in the hands of an omnipotent being whose benevolence can be won by following rigid and predictable rules of conduct. These are important functions of religion in a world where humans have little or no control over their environment. Industrialization vastly increases humans’ direct physical control over the environment in which they live and work. This process undermines the traditional function of religion to provide reassurance in an uncertain world.

Inglehart, Ronald; Welzel, Christian. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy. The Human Development Sequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

3 comentarii:

Anca spunea...

Si tie-ti trebe garsoniera confort 3, dus cu smoala in iad? :))) Daca te grabesti rau si nu-ti vine randu' in timp util, sa-mi spui sa-ti dau cheile -- eu mi-am rezolvat. =))

Itzicbaseanu spunea...

TURI,eu atat-ti spun,m tine coont! cat tii mai mult cont,cu-atat ti-e mai bine!...

Itzicbaseanu spunea...

Adica,las-o pe Anca bai Turi!...Ca noi suntem disponibili, tu esti cu treaba si mai ai si fete, pe cand noi...Ancutza, stam acilea, doar un semn si absolutul ne urmeaza!