The Order of the Eternal Social Conscience
Part 2 is here
A Ghostly Play in Five Acts
Karl Marx, of London, England
Max Weber, of Heidelberg, Germany
Emile Durkheim of Paris, France
W.E.B. DuBois of Atlanta, USA
Special Guest Appearance
Charles Dickens of London
As Narrated to Jerri Bedwell of California, USA
Welcome to the Parlor of the Ghosts of The Order of the Eternal Social Conscience
We have entered a world separate from Earth — a world where time is irrelevant, and philosophers mingle with writers and poets, with each made the wiser for it. Upon this occasion, as the season turns to winter, hearts and minds take a fancy for tales of transformation and repentance. Some very fine souls of the past, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and W.E.B Du Bois have asked an author to their parlor. The author they have summoned is Charles Dickens. Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, is oft revisited this time of year and these four fine minds are in a mood of reminiscence. They have a desire to delve into the story, to remember the character Ebenezer Scrooge who was both product and prisoner of his Victorian times. The only way in which they can, these great thinkers, is to call upon Mr. Dickens and ask for a recitation. Only he can clearly call upon the ghosts and characters of his world. While Mr. Dickens reads, the Order would like to take pause from time to time to reflect upon their own insights into the story, with one another and with you, their honored guest.
The Spectre of Marley Meets The Spirit of Capitalism
Marley is Dead, or “The Valley of the Shadow of Death gives few of its pilgrims back to the world.” (Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, p. 141)
The gathered are reminded of Ebenezer Scrooge and how his business partner died seven years before this tale began. They learn of the extent of his miserliness and of his disregard for a season that is intended to bring everyone closer together with the spirit of warmth and human kindness. And of the harsh words he has for those who are possessed with the spirit of Christmas. Mostly they are reminded of this man’s virtual lack of connection with society in any way which would provide him with joy. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his long dead partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him of visitors to come. Our great thinkers take this as a cue to discuss the story thus far. Let us listen in.
“I am always struck by how very much Ebenezer is like a polyp,” says Durkheim.
“Enlighten us, brother Emile,(Durkheim)” says Du Bois.
“Well,” Durkheim replied, “Charles(Dickens) said:
“Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names: it was all the same to him.” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
Durkheim replies, “His partner is dead, he lives in his house, nothing has changed him, he is unaffected. He has isolated himself from the events and people of the world to such an extent that like a polyp, that clump of worms living on the ocean floor who look like one, but are not—any one worm can live without the other. Marley’s death had no impact on his life, he was able to fill in any potential void left by the man, there was no personal experience of need upon the other either materially or spiritually. A human polyp.”
“Thus it happens that in a colony of polyps one of the individuals can be sick without the others feeling it. This is no longer true when a society is made up of a system of organs. According to their mutual dependence, what strikes one strikes the others, and thus every change, even slightly significant, takes on a general interest.” (Durkheim, On Morality and Society, p. 108).
Durkheim continued, “How can Scrooge be so unfeeling? So numb? It is so sad!”
“You say he is numb and unfeeling,” interjects Weber. “I say he is in league with the likes of Ben Franklin. If he feels any emotion, it is for the loss of his money, or anyone else’s for that matter. He has turned out those that collect for charity without so much as a penny, and you can tell how much he would rather not allow his good worker, Bob Cratchit, have Christmas off. Mr. Dickens relayed the conversation to us thusly:
“You’ll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.
“If quite convenient, sir.”
“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”
The clerk smiled faintly.
“And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.” (Dickens)
Weber continues, “You can see the man has no heart. He finds love and family useless and costly.” He then goes on to say:
“The complexity of this issue is above all apparent in the summum bonum [‘supreme good’] of this ‘ethic’: namely, the acquisition of money and more and more money, takes place here simultaneously with the strictest avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of it. The pursuit of riches is fully stripped of all pleasurable (eudamonistischen), and surely all hedonistic aspects. Accordingly, this striving becomes understood completely as an end in itself (Weber, The Spirit of Capitalism, p. 17).”
Weber laughs, “Dickens, you could have even called the specter of Marley the Spirit of Capitalism — how fitting that would have been!”
To be continued next week, same time, same, place, same blog! Y’all come back now, you hear! (part 2 is here)