In light of Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy and Skidelsky’s How Much is Enough?, ++Rowan considers an often neglected mode of resistance against a world where everything has a price:

Sandel’s examples converge with the Skidelskys’ thesis in putting before us a possible world of absolute commodification. If we want to resist this intelligently, we need doctrine, ritual and narrative: sketches of the normative, practices that are not just functions, and stories of lives that communicate a sense of what being at home in the environment looks like—and the costs of failure as well. Self-knowledge is not, in this framework, a matter of introspection, sifting over one’s emotional states; it is a capacity to assess, to measure oneself, a capacity on which both comedy and tragedy ultimately depend (italics mine).

This statement is moving for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it echoes the Anglo-Catholic Socialist ethos. The commodifiction of everything is certainly a threat to us all, and as ++Rowan notes at the beginning of his review, this threat especially befalls the poor. Those whose very life force is now up for sale.

Like ++Rowan’s conclusions, the Anglo-Catholic Socialists insist that doctrine, ritual and narrative are often the only defense of the poor against the rich. F.D. Maurice once said that the Creeds “are the defense of the scriptures and the poor man against the attempt of doctors to confuse the one and rob the other.” According to Stewart Headlam, the prayer book is the people’s “best manual of socialism.” Common prayer, the collects and Holy Communion today seem like one of the last remaining vestiges capable of signifying the possibility a common life and transcendent hope upon Christ – and not simply for an elite and educated class, but for society’s most vulnerable.

As it has been said before, to deny the possibility of a common life is to deny Christ. The commodifiction of everything is therefore not only a pragmatic or immanent problem that threatens our state politics; more importantly, it is a direct assault on Christ’s body and His most vulnerable members.

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