At the theology reading group on monday we will discuss The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World by Daniel Bell.
Paul Tyson [who is in the group] has a brief and helpful summary of the book here. Another summary is here.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Bell begins by discussing how capitalism is not just an economic system but has come to be totalising force controlling all of life and society. Furthermore, he draws on the highly influential French postmodern [also Marxist and atheist] philosophers Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze to develop the idea that the real defining feature of capitalism is desire: creating it, developing it, marketing it, ...
Although I thought these chapters were original and stimulating I thought they were too long and drawn out and I am not convinced that one really need to go to high-profile French postmodern philosophers to get this insight.
There is a detailed critique of positive theology of capitalism promoted by Michael Novak and others: they have the strange idea that somehow the Kingdom of God is to equated with doing business and making money. The hermeneutical gymnastics and distorted theology are a bit like that associated with American exceptionalism. I felt this was a bit of a "straw man" to knock down.
Possibly the best part of the book is the exposition of Kingdom values that go against the grain of a culture saturated by capitalism: generosity, service, mercy, community over individualism, ...
The church is to be “an economy of desire—an ensemble of disciplines and practices that (re)shapes desire to flow in particular ways.” The church is to embody “the divine gift economy,” flowing from “God’s ceaseless generosity, of God’s graceful prodigality.”
The conclusion is particularly strong and challenging engaging with the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16. The punchline is "you cannot serve God and money."