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Capitalism as Religion: Walter Benjamin and Max Weber

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Benjamin's fragment 'Capitalism as Religion', written in 1921, was only published several decades after his death. Its aim is to show that capitalism is a cultic religion, without mercy or truce, leading humanity to the 'house of despair'. It is an astonishing document, directly based on Max Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, but – in ways akin to Ernst Bloch or Erich Fromm – transforming Weber's 'value-free' analysis into a ferocious anticapitalist argument, probably inspired by Gustav Landauer's romantic and libertarian socialism. This article analyses Benjamin's fragment and explores its relationship to Weber's thesis, as well as to the tradition of romantic anticapitalism.

Affiliations: 1: CNRS, Paris;, Email: michael.lowy@orange.fr

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/content/journals/10.1163/156920609x399218
2009-03-01
2016-12-04

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