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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” explores the idea that capitalism can be seen as a form of religion. To understand this argument, let’s break it down into several key points:

1. Capitalism as a Religion:

  • Sacred Beliefs: Benjamin suggests that capitalism has its own set of sacred beliefs. In traditional religions, people have faith in higher powers, rituals, and moral codes. In capitalism, people have faith in the economic system itself, believing in the invisible hand of the market, the idea that self-interest leads to collective good, and the pursuit of profit as a moral imperative.
  • Salvation: Just as religions promise salvation or eternal life, capitalism offers the promise of economic success and prosperity. People work tirelessly in pursuit of financial success, seeing it as a form of salvation or a path to a better life.
  • Rituals: Capitalism has its own rituals, such as buying and selling, investing, and even the act of working. These rituals are performed regularly, akin to religious practices, and provide a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Iconography: Capitalism also has its icons, such as corporate logos and symbols of wealth, which hold a special significance in the culture of consumerism.

2. Conceptions of “Religion” in this Context:

  • Benjamin’s concept of religion here is not limited to traditional organized religions like Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism. Instead, he’s referring to a broader understanding of religion as any system of beliefs and practices that provides a framework for understanding and making sense of the world.
  • He sees religion as something that offers meaning, structure, and a sense of purpose to people’s lives. In this context, capitalism serves these functions for many individuals.

3. Challenges Faced in Contemporary Capitalist Societies:

  • By comparing capitalism to religion, Benjamin highlights the all-encompassing nature of capitalism in modern societies. It shapes not only the economy but also culture, values, and individual identities. This can lead to a number of challenges:
  • Alienation: People can become alienated from themselves and their true desires, as they constantly pursue material success and conform to societal expectations driven by capitalism.
  • Inequality: Capitalism can exacerbate economic and social inequalities, as the pursuit of profit often comes at the expense of workers and marginalized groups.
  • Consumerism: The relentless pursuit of material possessions and wealth can lead to a culture of consumerism, where people seek happiness through consumption, often at the expense of other values.
  • Lack of Meaning: In a capitalist society, the search for meaning and purpose is often tied to success and consumption, leaving many people feeling unfulfilled or disconnected.

In summary, Walter Benjamin’s argument in “Capitalism as Religion” suggests that capitalism shares certain characteristics with traditional religions, providing people with meaning, rituals, and a sense of purpose. Understanding this comparison can help us analyze the impact of capitalism on contemporary societies, including issues related to alienation, inequality, consumerism, and the search for meaning. It encourages us to critically examine the role of capitalism in shaping our values and identities.

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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