“Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that.” This sentence appears in an article criticizing capitalism in the current issue of the Spectator, the British weekly magazine, and several readers have rung me up to ask if we all have the same words before our eyes.
Because who is coming to the defense of Marxism like this so long after every aspect of it has been tested to destruction? Some professor on the West Coast perhaps? Not a bit of it. It is nobody else but the Archbishop of Canterbury, a fellow by the name of Rowan Williams. When appointed, he thought to ingratiate himself by confiding to the public that he was a “hairy leftie.” His prose style certainly suits his self-presentation. Take that sentence quoted above. What is a kind of mythology? How is mythology something other than itself? What are these things said to have no life in themselves but nonetheless with power and agency? Agency is too vague a term to carry meaning here, and how do unspecified things have a life? In any case Marx observed nothing of the kind, and Williams is only giving his own reduction of what he thinks that other hairy leftie was trying to say.
Once an Archbishop of Canterbury was prepared to go to the stake for his Christian belief. Subsequent Archbishops have tried to live up to the position as head of the Anglican community world-wide. In living memory, great Christian churchmen like Cardinal Wyszynski in Poland, Cardinal Josif Slipyi in Ukraine, the saintly Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek in Czechoslovakia, criticised Marxist doctrine and practice, and went to prison for it. And rather than calling Marx in aid, might an Archbishop today not have a duty rather to confront Marx’s famous jibe that religion is the opium of the people?
Just recently, and incredibly, Rowan Williams was advocating the introduction of sharia law into England as “unavoidable” and “desirable.” In the Spectator he takes a different swipe at society, seeming to think that the market is idolatry, though his critique of capitalism is actually so poorly and opaquely expressed that it is close to burble. But it is surely a novelty, indeed unique to this age, that an Archbishop of Canterbury can assault and diminish the institutions without which he would have no function at all.