Monday, September 28, 2009

C.S. Lewis discourse on money vs power

This writing by C.S. Lewis about money and power is very interesting:

The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.


It is from this post which I saw from Wes Bigelow's blog.

7 comments:

Wes Bigelow said...

heh, I found this on someone else's blog. Now that people I don't personally know are reading this, I should probably figure out rules to attribute stuff.

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Dog of Justice said...

C.S. Lewis was a perceptive guy. I need to plan a vacation in the future where I read a lot of his work and correspondence, rather than settling for glimpses of it from others' blog posts. The same applies to G.K. Chesterton.

As for the immediate topic at hand, this recent post on one of the less politically correct blogs I read makes a related point.

xerxes_blue said...

You should also definitely check out "The Screwtape Letters", which CS Lewis dedicated to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. It's not too long;can be read during a plane flight. It is a terrific examination of the various demons of human nature, written from the demons' perspective...

s said...

The New Yorker had an interesting article on C.S. Lewis (including a brief mention of Chesterton): Prisoner of Narnia

s said...

C.S. Lewis had a facility with words characteristic of English scholars, and his stories of life in school are very compelling, but I tend to find his reasoning rather irksome. He liked to invoke bold, universal statements about human nature ("All men desire X"), mostly playing on prejudices, to draw conclusions from false dichotomies. If Professor Strawman happened to get flattened along the way, so much the better. One interesting point from the article I linked above is that this pattern seems to have governed the way he lived his life. He'd make a gut decision, justify it with some bizarre dichotomy, blinding himself to alternative choices, and then appear to be quite satisfied with his cleverness.

Dog of Justice said...

C.S. Lewis had a facility with words characteristic of English scholars, and his stories of life in school are very compelling, but I tend to find his reasoning rather irksome. He liked to invoke bold, universal statements about human nature ("All men desire X"), mostly playing on prejudices, to draw conclusions from false dichotomies. If Professor Strawman happened to get flattened along the way, so much the better. One interesting point from the article I linked above is that this pattern seems to have governed the way he lived his life. He'd make a gut decision, justify it with some bizarre dichotomy, blinding himself to alternative choices, and then appear to be quite satisfied with his cleverness.

Hmm. This is an excellent description of why I don't accept his theological arguments. I was hoping it was a compartmentalized weakness, but I guess that wasn't the case.

The interesting question then becomes, why does Lewis's perspective nevertheless seem to hold up better in real life (in my opinion, anyway) than that of an apparently more rational man like Haldane?