Harvey Cox


On his book The Market as God

Cover Interview of March 07, 2017

The wide angle

The book deals with economic history in conjunction with religious history, and the interaction of the two. I use the capitalized Market to indicate a market system that has exceeded its proper place and function, has become a function “god.” I refer to Pope Francis’s Gaudium Evangelii in which he refers to a “deified market.” And I draw on the classic work of R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. As a theologian and a student of both Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, I became interested a few years ago in the religious functions the Market now seems to fulfill. The Pope calls it a “new golden calf” and an idolatry.

rorotoko.com Harvey Cox presents Market as God to Pope Francis in Rome.

In a recent interview, I told Masao Yokota that Pope Francis, in saying that the problem is the “deified market,” is saying that we are under the power of another kind of religious or world view, which is consumer capitalism and accumulation and competition. We are living in a world view, in which we are set against each other. The market as god sets standards, provides narratives, creates values, gives us our notion of who we are and how much we are worth. All these things are now dictated by this all powerful market. Everybody talks about the market as though it’s God: “The market really knows best.” If the Dow Jones looks bad today, “the market will eventually sort things out.” It’s like a god.

In the same interview, we also talked about taking action. In responding to the market mentality or the ersatz religion of the market, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good just to talk about it. Pope Francis also shows what it would be like to live in a way when you are not captured by the deified market. He wouldn’t live in the pope’s palace. He lives in the guest hotel. I’ve been there myself in the guest hotel in the Vatican. He eats with other people. He simply refuses to take advantage of his position to live the high style the way many popes in the past have. He is exemplifying. By the way, in October 2016 I had the honor of presenting The Market as God to Pope Francis at an audience in Rome, and it was quite an honor for me.