Readers who may have had some interest in Campion College’s Conference on “Faith in the Marketplace” held in September may want to cast their attention to an Iconocast interview conducted by the folks at Jesus Radicals. The subject of the interview, Jonathan Moyer, is a co-founder with a group of Mennonites in Denver Colorado of a small, non-capitalist, economy that melds together with dominant modes of economic practice.
The organisation, called “the Groupee“, sought to provide an economic shelter to the often brutal and dehumanising affects of subordinating all activity to the dictates of finance. What is interesting about this attempt at providing this shelter, however, is that its pillars seem rather counter-intuitive to one accustomed to the Capitalist mindset.
The system works through the circulation of tokens that are distributed via a central committee for an agreed schedule of labour. The system only works for a predetermined group of individuals and it is not possible for a stranger to simply sign up for the program.
Hierarchy and exclusivity sound like anathema to the Capitalist ear, but the reason why this makes sense is because Groupee also seeks to foster a community of Mennonites. It is because one seeks to maintain a faithful community, says Moyer, that one submits to hierarchy (indeed, he goes as far as to say that there is a need for legitimate hierarchy, particularly the headship of Christ, so as to help in one’s resistance against distorted hierarchies). And it is the need to intentionally foster a community geared towards faithfulness to Christ (even if that faith is not often explicit) that enjoins exclusivity. As Moyer argued, the more inclusive that community became to those who may not share that community’s values or telos, the more difficult it becomes to foster that intentionally Mennonite community.
One can debate Moyer’s point as to whether community is the holiest thing, though it must be taken seriously as a holy thing, for such communities are but instantiations of the Body of Christ in real space and time. Any disagreement with Moyer on this point should not detract from the value of this podcast as a seedbed for thought on how to negotiate as members of the Body of Christ through a financialised Imperium whose inclusivity belies a more sinister call to conformity.
It is a practical first step towards the proliferation of distributist economics without that radical break from the status quo, which is a legitimate concern seeing the need for formation as part of the negotiation from the Imperium of the market to the distributed, personalist economy, which could parallel the long journey of conversion of Israel through the desert as part of its liberation from Egypt.
You may listen to this podcast by clicking here.
This post cannot be comprehensive without being ridiculously long, and is bound to stir up controversy. Further elaborations on points that may have been neglected in this post would be made available as is opportune. In the meantime, it would be most beneficial to have a look at The Distributist Review, which is an excellent resource that would elaborate many strands of distributist thought.