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The Islamic Spirit of Capitalism: Moroccan Islam and Its Transferable Cultural Schemas and Values (Case Study)

Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 2010, Fall, 22, 3

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This article adds to and critiques current debates about the "spirit of capitalism" for being too "top down", western and elite-oriented. It takes a bottom-end-up and ethnographic cultural perspective to examine the cultural conditions for the formation of willing, low priced labour power in a Moroccan case study example of the "Islamic south". Tracing how the popular culture of Islam in Morocco provides a reservoir of religious meaning for the framing of, and accommodation to, capitalistic wage labour relations, we argue that capital both in the "north", through migration, and in the "south" gains ready access to huge resources of labour. Popular Islamic religio-cultural practices and beliefs provide ready-made cultural schemas for enacting and reproducing social relations of master-disciple/saint-supplicant, which when applied to capitalist employment relations, despite some real and possible counter-tendencies and seeds of resistance, go a long way towards explaining the apparently submissive attitudes of most Moroccan workers. Further, subaltern classes in Morocco frequently look to divination, to the miraculous, to jinn-related rituals of trance-dance and eviction to arbitrate what they see as their hit-and-miss affair with Fate. This can produce what we term a magical emancipation seemingly releasing them, partially at least, from the sufferings associated with their crushing conditions of existence and offering some psychic space between immediate oppression and immediate suffering. But magical emancipation also obfuscates the true sources of their suffering and ensures, again, subjection to the maraboutic healer and in general to "the master". Poverty and richness as well as social inequalities are perceived to a larger extent to be incurred by the machinery of luck, the evil eye, envy and the will of Allah rather than being the results of practices and discourses of exploitative economic relations. [1] Economic sociology is undergoing a renaissance. Especially following the publication of The New Spirit of Capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005) there is a recognition that capitalist relations of production cannot function entirely through their own intrinsic logics or through direct coercion. They are always socially and culturally embedded and require appropriate attitudes and feelings in their agents to move the whole system at the human level. Capitalism needs its "spirit(s)" to make it work on the human plane. Often thought through from above in terms of the need for managerial or entrepreneurial skills, equally vital for the functioning of capitalist social formations is a subordinate "spirit" from below, a willing submission, at some level, or at least withdrawal of subjective negation, to the formal relations which subsume labour power to the labour process under the direction of capital or its managers. The New Spirit of Capitalism claims that we are now in a third stage of the development of a new "spirit" where, to compress the argument, accommodation for the meanings of workers is produced through Capital's surprising recuperation of an artistic critique of bourgeois culture taking place through the counter-cultural movements from the 1960s on. Creatively responding to this critique, Capital's new "empowering" employment relations, transcending previous forms of domination, appear to offer workers aspects of initiative, autonomy and respect in line with their contemporary sense of self, dignity and aspiration; sensibilities formed in the wake of the counter-cultural critique of bourgeois culture.

The Islamic Spirit of Capitalism: Moroccan Islam and Its Transferable Cultural Schemas and Values (Case Study)
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  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: 22 September 2010
  • Publisher: Journal of Religion and Popular Culture
  • Print Length: 86 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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