Capitalism and Christianity, American Style

Capitalism and Christianity, American Style

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: Published: April 2008

Politics > Political Theory, Religious Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

Capitalism and Christianity, American Style is William E. Connolly’s stirring call for the democratic left to counter the conservative stranglehold over American religious and economic culture in order to put egalitarianism and ecological integrity on the political agenda. An eminent political theorist known for his work on identity, secularism, and pluralism, Connolly charts the path of the “evangelical-capitalist resonance machine,” source of a bellicose ethos reverberating through contemporary institutional life. He argues that the vengeful vision of the Second Coming motivating a segment of the evangelical right resonates with the ethos of greed animating the cowboy sector of American capitalism. The resulting evangelical-capitalist ethos finds expression in church pulpits, Fox News reports, the best-selling Left Behind novels, consumption practices, investment priorities, and state policies. These practices resonate together to diminish diversity, forestall responsibility to future generations, ignore urban poverty, and support a system of extensive economic inequality.

Connolly describes how the evangelical-capitalist machine works, how its themes resound across class lines, and how it infiltrates numerous aspects of American life. Proposing changes in sensibility and strategy to challenge this machine, Connolly contends that the liberal distinction between secular public and religious private life must be reworked. Traditional notions of unity or solidarity must be translated into drives to forge provisional assemblages comprised of multiple constituencies and creeds. The left must also learn from the political right how power is infused into everyday institutions such as the media, schools, churches, consumption practices, corporations, and neighborhoods. Connolly explores the potential of a “tragic vision” to contest the current politics of existential resentment and political hubris, explores potential lines of connection between it and theistic faiths that break with the evangelical right, and charts the possibility of forging an “eco-egalitarian” economy. Capitalism and Christianity, American Style is William E. Connolly’s most urgent work to date.


“[A] provocative spur to reflection about spirituality’s centrality to people’s lives. A clarion call for the Left to counter the Right’s destructive forces, the book refuses to be derailed by the evangelical-capitalist resonance machine. With intellectual courage and an attachment to human plurality, Connolly embraces luck, creativity, surprise, and innovation while acknowledging life’s tragic potential for loss and failure. He performs the presumptive generosity he urges us to adopt, providing us with a language for, and examples of, how to be and act in the world.” — Lisa Weedon, Perspectives on Politics

“[T]he book is well and powerfully argued with some very practical solutions given from which serious lessons may be learned. Connolly is an important political theorist who cannot be ignored in socio-political discourses.” — Peter Price, Eras

“This work is a key, scholarly contribution to the fields of political theory, political economy, religion and politics,American political thought, and American politics. Equally important, it can serve as a resource for today’s political leaders who want to understand present polarities and move toward a more effective civil polity.” — Eloise A. Buker, New Political Science

“William Connolly’s Capitalism and Christianity, American Style bears all the hallmarks we expect from a work by this original and stimulating political theorist. It is an essay that challenges the reader to think-- and argue --all the way, as this reader did, while pausing to admire the many levels of Connolly’s provocative discussion. The book’s riches cannot be summed up in the usual paragraph or so. . . . When I put this book down, I felt that gratitude for William Connolly and his Capitalism and Christianity, American Style, his latest, sweet gift to us.” — Robert Booth Fowler, Political Theory

“A tour de force. . . . The book is not just about political theory, but it is also about a way forward.” — Jason Dittmer, Environment and Planning D

“[T]his is classic William Connolly. It is fresh in theme and consistent in promoting his longstanding commitment to pluralism in this case with a programmatic twist outlining a visible way out of the American crisis of crony capitalism, apocalyptic evangelical doctrines, and environmental degradation.” — Tristan Sturm, Antipode

“This is a book that is a must read for anyone seeking to capture the rhizome of US Empire global capitalism and develop a counter-resonance of heterogeneous sub-discourses that express ‘pluripotentiality’ for a more equalitarian capitalism (p. 25). I would recommend this book as a blueprint for the Obama administration as it sets about the impossible task of disassembling the evangelical-cowboy capitalism resonance machine of vengeance and entitlement that has wrecked havoc on the global economy by its rampant deregulation, imbrication of Church and State, abolishment of civil liberties and using junk science to define global warming as leftist delusion against God’s more divine plan.” — David M. Boje, Critical Discourse Studies

“Written primarily from a political science perspective, Connolly’s identifications of the spiritual and religious dimensions that dominate economic discourse in the United States provides an insightful and rigorous study on topics that will be (and should be, according to [Stuart] Hall) of interest to cultural studies researchers.” — Holly Randell-Moon, Cultural Studies Review

“I immensely enjoyed reading Capitalism and Christianity, American Style. William E. Connolly offers insight, innovation, and wisdom. He brings substantive theorizing to the pressing political concerns of the moment, providing a sense of momentum and sheer energy. This book is relevant, in the strongest sense.” — Nigel Thrift, author of Knowing Capitalism

“In these times, we desperately need William E. Connolly’s impassioned study of inequality and the destruction of nature, his sheer awe at living-ness itself, his philosophy of immanent naturalism and deployment of the Deleuzian assemblage, and, especially, the interdisciplinary concreteness of his proposals for a resonance machine of resistance on the left. Along with Connolly’s description of an ethos, or spiritualization, of academic engagement, a key contribution of this book is to advance what has been dangerously lacking on the left, a powerful analytics of the right’s resonance machine and its recognition that the intellectual and the corporeal, the theological and the secular, never exist in purified, ‘clean’ categories.” — Linda Kintz, author of Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions That Matter in Right-Wing America

“William E. Connolly is a towering figure in contemporary political theory whose profound reflections on democracy, religion, and the tragic unsettle and enrich us. In this powerful work he casts his philosophical gaze on the internal dynamics of the American Empire—especially the role of Christian traditions and capitalist practices. The result is vintage Connolly, namely, indispensable!” — Cornel West, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent books include Pluralism, also published by Duke University Press; Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed; Why I am Not a Secularist; and The Ethos of Pluralization. His classic study The Terms of Political Discourse won the Benjamin Lippincott Award in 1999. Connolly was the editor of the journal Political Theory from 1980 to 1986.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Introduction: The Spirit of Capitalism 1

1. The Volatility of Capitalism 17

2. The Evangelical-Capitalist Resonance Machine 39

3. Between Science and Faith 69

4. Is Eco-egalitarian Capitalism Possible? 93

5. Christianity, Capitalism, and the Tragic 119

Notes 147

Index 169
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4272-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4249-6
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