Mitt Romney’s recent comments about the power of culture in Israel and Palestine were not just a gaffe and not just political pandering when he said about the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians that “Culture makes all the difference.” This is also supposed to include the difference between Chile and Ecuador, or the United States and Mexico. I’m sure that Romney really believes this. I’m also willing to bet that he believes that rich people are better than poor people; and corporations are people too, really superior people, more “vital.”
So what’s new? Rich people have almost always thought they are better than poor people. The difference is how this difference between the superrich and the rest of us gets carried over into politics. While politics and money have always been inseparable, what’s new, I think, is the way money is entering so baldly into political discourse. This would explain why Romney keeps saying stuff about Anne’s Cadillacs and his friends who own Nascar teams, and the withholding of his taxes, and so on and so on. The election is turning out to be about more than the economy. It’s turning out to be about money, or what Mark Taylor has called a “confidence game, ” the “search for religious certainty, moral clarity, and national purpose” in the face of “overwhelming insecurity” (Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World without Redemption, p.1).
The problem then with so-called “Political Theology” is that it has always come up short in its refusal to look squarely at money, which is abstract and material, all at once. As Taylor writes, “In their long and tangled histories, it is often impossible to know whether money represents God or God represents money” (122). I suppose we are going to learn a lot more about how capital figures itself as absolute (Taylor, chp.3), how it makes itself, how it hides itself, how it shows itself, how it moves itself and pools itself, just like God in western theology after Ockham (about which Taylor also writes).
With Romney and his new pal Sheldon Adelson, we get to see it all creepy, in the flesh, the animate power of what we might have otherwise thought was inanimate stuff and inanimate function.