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Elements of Capitalist Ideology and Conceptions of Religions Essay

Elements of Capitalist Ideology and Conceptions of Religions Essay


Walter Benjamin’s essay “Capitalism as Religion” is a thought-provoking piece that explores the idea that capitalism can be seen as a form of religion. To understand this argument, let’s break down the key elements and concepts involved.

  1. Capitalist Ideology: Capitalism is an economic and social system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, profit maximization, and the market-driven allocation of resources. Capitalist ideology promotes values such as individualism, competition, consumerism, and the pursuit of profit as virtuous and desirable. It emphasizes the importance of economic growth and wealth accumulation.
  2. Conceptions of “Religion”: Religion typically involves a belief system centered around the sacred or divine, with rituals, moral codes, and a sense of community. It often provides individuals with a sense of purpose, meaning, and transcendence beyond the material world. Religions often involve rituals and practices that bind individuals together in a shared identity and set of beliefs.

In “Capitalism as Religion,” Benjamin argues that capitalism exhibits elements commonly associated with religion:

  • Sacrifice: In capitalism, individuals often sacrifice time, effort, and even personal well-being in the pursuit of profit or success. This willingness to make sacrifices for economic gain can be seen as a form of devotion similar to religious sacrifice.
  • Rituals and Icons: Benjamin suggests that capitalist societies have their own rituals and symbols associated with economic activities. For example, the act of shopping can be ritualistic, with sales, advertisements, and branded products serving as iconic symbols.
  • Hope and Redemption: Capitalism offers the promise of prosperity and a better life, similar to religious notions of salvation or redemption. People often invest their hopes for a better future in economic success.
  • Ultimate Meaning: In a capitalist society, economic success is often seen as the ultimate source of meaning and fulfillment. It provides a sense of purpose and identity for many individuals.
  • Community: While capitalism can foster competition, it also creates communities around shared economic interests, such as business associations or consumer groups.

This comparison between capitalism and religion helps us think about the challenges faced in contemporary capitalist societies:

  1. Alienation: Critics argue that capitalism can lead to alienation, where individuals feel disconnected from the products of their labor and from each other. Understanding capitalism as a religion can shed light on how this alienation might occur when people devote themselves primarily to economic pursuits.
  2. Consumerism: Viewing capitalism as a religion highlights the role of consumerism in society. This can lead to questions about whether materialism and the pursuit of wealth are fulfilling, or if they leave people spiritually empty.
  3. Inequality: By comparing capitalism to religion, we can analyze the moral and ethical dimensions of wealth inequality. Does capitalism’s focus on individual success and profit align with our values and principles, or does it create a moral dilemma?
  4. Critique of Ideology: Benjamin’s comparison encourages critical examination of the dominant ideology in capitalist societies. It challenges us to question whether the values and beliefs promoted by capitalism are suitable for addressing the diverse needs and aspirations of contemporary society.

In summary, Walter Benjamin’s “Capitalism as Religion” draws parallels between capitalist ideology and religious concepts to provoke thought about the nature of capitalism and its impact on individuals and societies. This comparison encourages a critical examination of capitalism’s role in contemporary society and its effects on people’s lives.

Elements of Capitalist Ideology and Conceptions of Religions Essay

Question Description

I don’t understand this Social Science question and need help to study.


  1. As the title suggests, in the brief text, “Capitalism as Religion”, Walter Benjamin argues that the ideology of capitalism is, indeed, a religious ideology. What elements of capitalist ideology and conceptions of “religion” are used to justify such a comparison, and how does this comparison help us think about the challenges faced in contemporary capitalist societies?
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