This post provides a summary of Kathryn Tanner’s fifth Gifford lecture, entitled ‘Another World?’ Afterwards, my New College colleagues Evan Graber and Clement Wen will be providing their appraisals of Tanner’s depiction of the future as seen by both finance-disciplined capitalism and Christianity. As always, we invite your own contributions to our discussion (see my instructions for how to post). The lecture video is also now available at this link.
In this lecture, Kathryn Tanner will concentrate on how the future is depicted in the contrasting accounts offered by finance-disciplined capitalism and Christianity. She will argue that stock valuations and the related sale of derivatives have the effect of ‘collapsing’ the future into the present, employing Luhmann’s distinction between the ‘future present’ (the future that will, in fact, come) with the ‘present future’ (current predictions of how the future will turn out). Tanner will elaborate that such reduction is not only a matter of perspective but actually helps to create such a future by affecting prices and valuations. Any claims to market mastery, however, are challenged by an irreducible unpredictability of the future, as shown in market crashes. Tanner will therefore argue for a Christian view of the future that does not seek to constrain volatility, but that it approaches such uncertainty alongside belief in the disruptive effect of God’s transformative grace. In this way, Christianity’s view of ‘another world’ to come challenges predictive enthusiasm while motivating work towards ‘realistic proximate futures.’
In this post I offer a summary of Tanner’s fourth Gifford lecture, followed by a brief critique of her characterisation of the present moment in Christianity. Two of my New College colleagues, Jo Schonewolf and Amy Plender, will also offer responses to the material, then it’s over to you for questions and commentary. The lecture video is also now available at this link.
In this fourth lecture, Kathryn Tanner will describe the way that finance capitalism disciplines workers, managers, and traders in such a way that they become totally absorbed in the present moment. This discipline occurs through a number of means, including the conditions of scarcity imposed by market fluctuation, but its effects differ in proportion to the resources and liquidity one has at one’s disposal. In either case, the market, through corporations, reduces life to a sequence of ‘bare’ presents, isolated from past and future. Tanner will then argue that this view of the present is in diametric opposition to that offered by Christianity, in which the present moment is urgent because of its opportunity for gracious encounter with God. Tanner will then claim that divine, eternal constancy can become one’s orienting point in the midst of continuing market volatility. Continue reading →
We had a lively opening Gifford lecture with Professor Tanner at the Business School tonight! If you missed it, you can review the ‘live’ rendition at the Twitter hashtag #GiffordsEd. Also, as of Wednesday, May 4th, the lecture video has been available at this link. For this and subsequent discussion threads, consider responding to the following questions:
Is there a technical term, from either economics or theology, that you’d like to hear clarified? Professor Tanner has already covered a lot of ground and this is a good place to define our terms.
How does finance-dominated capitalism, as Tanner described it and you experience it, differ from the industrial capitalism that was the subject of Weber’s critique?
What element of Tanner’s proposed ‘Protestant anti-work ethic’ would you like to hear elaborated in the lectures to come?
To get us started, Melanie McConnell, a postgraduate student from New College, has posted some thoughts in our reply section. I’ve also heard some interest about how capitalism shapes our current institutions of higher education, both in the final question of tonight’s Q&A and through comments on social media. To join the thread, see my post on how to offer a comment. Continue reading →