Quote note (#190)

Luciano Pellicani (remember him?) on the ideological peregrinations of early Reform Christianity (among the immediate predecessors to the Puritans):

“Antagonism between the feudal system and the capitalist system” was at the origin of the Reformation. In other words: “capitalism, being constituted on commercial bases, tries to dominate the labour market; a fledgling proletariat no longer disposes, or can dispose, of the tools of its labour; between them, something that already resembles a class war.”

The social and psychological consequences were particularly acute in “areas where the population was rapidly increasing . . . [and] the areas of rapid social change.” The “growing importance of capital, of the market and of competition rendered insecure, isolated and full of anxiety” not only the existence of the proletarized working masses, but also that of the marginal strata of the intelligentsia who found themselves as if thrown into a hostile, incomprehensible world, governed by impersonal forces beyond their control. It is not surprising that the declassed intellectuals should have “constituted the avant-garde of the Reform.” Contrary to an interpretation that is as widespread as it is arbitrary, the Reformation was an anticapitalist movement.

For the entrepreneurs, the practice of indulgences had transformed relations with the church into a reassuring kind of bookkeeping exercise: “If you can buy paradise, then God must tolerate and encourage wealth and not be hostile to profit.” In criticizing this attitude, the Protestant preachers laid the foundations “for a new critique of capitalism as the work of the Devil, a critique that went deep, because the accusation was against capitalism itself and not the abuses indicated by Catholicism.” It brought the mercatores before the court of the Holy Scripture and condemned them as men who had surrendered to mammon, corrupting Christianity with their lust for wealth and profit.

The most appropriate response would have been to revive the original evangelical message and violently expel the mercatores from the temple. Luther did not go so far. Being a radical pessimist, he thought that the corruption of Christianity would never be eradicated manu militari and that the only solution was for the faithful to avoid being infected by the spirit of profit and to continue to work “obediently in the pre-ordered social conditions.”

This solution failed to satisfy the peasants, besieged by hunger, the plague, taxes, and usury; and the artisans, who had fallen under the control of capital and were forced to work for greedy, insensitive masters. Luther’s devastating critique of the Church and of capitalism had raised much higher hopes among this internal proletariat for “an autumn of the middle ages.” Predictably, they began to look for a solution elsewhere.

They found what they were seeking in Thomas Müntzer, “the revolution theologian” — Ernst Bloch’s definition — “[who] fanned hatred against the ruling classes, he stimulated the wildest passions, and used only the forceful language that the religious and nationalist delirium had put into mouths of the Old Testament prophet.” He liked to present himself as a paraclete, whose soteriological mission was to “combat the enemies of faith” in order to overturn an overturned world and free the oppressed and the exploited from the rule of priests, the powerful, and the rich. His revolutionary agenda “demanded the immediate establishment of the kingdom of God on Earth, of the prophesied millennium, by restoring the church to its original status and abolishing all the institutions that conflicted with the purportedly early Christian but in fact very novel church. By the kingdom of God Müntzer meant a society with no class differences, no private property and no state authority independent of, and foreign to, the members of society.”

Understandably, Müntzer’s vision of the imminent advent of a communist millennium aroused people treated “like society’s beasts of burden.” Peasants, miners, and artisans rushed to listen to Müntzer and Pfeifer, his assistant. The content of their speeches was always the same: those in command had no right to exercise power; power should pass into the hands of the chosen community; the priests had betrayed the evangelical message and therefore should be expelled from Christianity; the rich would never save their souls because they had surrendered to mammon; everything had to be shared; the very distinction between meum and tuum was contrary to God’s will.

[For references, see original (Chapter 32), which proceeds to Puritanism, the English Civil War, and the Cromwellian suppression of English Communism]

October 13, 2015admin 7 Comments »


7 Responses to this entry

  • James James Says:

    Rothbard discusses Müntzer as well:


    Posted on October 13th, 2015 at 4:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • James James Says:

    “The fact is that nine out of ten among intellectuals know nothing about economics.”



    Posted on October 14th, 2015 at 4:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Scharlach Says:

    Thanks for putting him back on the radar. Vilfredo Pareto is another Italian I’ve been meaning to take a look at. His Wiki article makes his work look promising.


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Pareto indeed looks fascinating, possibly one of the earliest discourses to approach Gnon, unless we go all the way back to the Melian dialogue.

    From La Wik:

    “But many modern historians reject the notion that Pareto’s thought was essentially fascistic or that he is properly regarded as a supporter of fascism.”

    Translation: “We have a feeling history is going to prove him right, so we can’t afford to dismiss this guy in the same way that we can Evola etc.”


    Posted on October 14th, 2015 at 11:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • Scharlach Says:

    Some Googling brought me to a book that cites Pellicani and may be worth a look, as well: The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism, by Arthur Versluis.


    Posted on October 15th, 2015 at 12:00 am Reply | Quote
  • OLF Says:

    While Reformation was certainly communistique movement, let us not absolve our Quixotean friends of the sin of Socialism (as far as history of the ideas is concerned). The Political Context of Sociology by Leon Bramson is an absolute must-read on the topic. As Rothbard noted in his review of said book:

    “One of the most important neglected truths in the history of modern political theory is emphasized by Bramson: that modern left-wing and socialistic theories grew out of nineteenth-century conservatism, which adumbrated theories of holism, organicism, the “community,” the group as superior to the individual, statism against laissez-faire, a fixed, hierarchically ordered society, etc. […] the originators of conservatism such as Bonald, de Maistre, Hegel, etc., attacked […] industrial society as being “atomistic,” as “disintegrating” the helpless individual, etc., and called for a “reintegration” of the individual in the group and the community, a reestablishment of organicism, the “whole man,” the State, hierarchical order, militarism, mystical irrationalism, etc. Bramson shows that the original “socialists” were directly derived from this reactionary wave: e.g., Comte and Saint-Simon, who both wished to restore stagnation, hierarchy, and status from the period from which the Enlightenment had dethroned them. Karl Marx was more of an eclectic, as Bramson shows. From the classical liberals, Marx took an at-least-proclaimed devotion to humanism, reason, industry, peace, and the eventual “withering away of the State”; from the conservatives, however, he took much more, including an idealization of the feudal period, an opposition to individualism on behalf of favored classes and the whole collective society, a determinist belief in laws of history, and the charge that liberal division of labor and the free society “alienated” the laborer from his work, “atomized” the individual, etc. […] As Bramson says, “A consideration of the anti-liberal aspect of sociology brings into sharp relief the links between a reactionary like de Maistre, who idealized the feudal order, and a radical like Marx, who visualized a new industrial order.” We can, incidentally, see these links also in the writings of partisans of such links: e.g., Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation or R.H. Tawney. The second important contribution of Bramson’s work is, in his later chapters, the critique of the current left-wing attack on modern “mass society” or “mass culture,” which Bramson shows to be derived from the nineteenth-century conservative and socialist attacks on “the atomization of the individual” due to modern capitalism and individualism. While the current critics attack not only capitalism but industrialism as well—and thus implicitly call for a return to some sort of agrarian-communal ideal—these critics are basing their theses not, as they claim, on social science, but on their own arbitrary valuations and romanticizing of all other times but the present.”

    So in the end it turns out that the false dichotomy isn’t between Capitalism and Communism as they like to claim, but between Distributism and Communism… hm, Throne & Altar Socialists, a good synonym for HRx. But, since some of them actually do call themselves something like Christian Socialists or some such thing I guess that the irony is lost on them!


    Posted on October 15th, 2015 at 11:33 am Reply | Quote
  • This Week in Reaction (2015/10/18) | The Reactivity Place Says:

    […] “Antagonism between the feudal system and the capitalist system was at the origin of the Reformation.” That is Luciano Pellicani, by way of Nick Land, who has much more quoted from him. […]

    Posted on October 20th, 2015 at 3:47 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment