Proselytization is a fancy word for outreach and conversion. For reasons that will be clear to anybody arriving because of a post on Transforminator that presaged a series of posts exploring Capitalism as if it were religion, and because of just who I am that would be unsurprising to those closest to me, I have been observing the profession and work of public relations for corporate bodies with particular keenness.
I am in awe of it. For the most part it tends toward unscrupulous and insidious. Yet there is both an artfulness and plain success to it that is undeniable. It could be used for good; but generally it is rallied to a much lower cause. No matter. The same can be said for so many things from guns to sweetner.
The Pro-Corporate Proselytizers
I am, of course, referring to the use of public relations and other communication in the service of corporate aggrandisement. These are the foot soldiers in the campaigns to make corporate entities, their leaders, and their commercial offerings not just acceptable but desirable, irrespective of their inherent worth. They are not the only ones on the field with this mission. But, they are the most obvious and easily identified.
Very few immediately consider industry groups and think tanks, university-associated organizations, and chambers of commerce as missionaries for corporations. They are. They will try to make their play as about “business” or “economics,” and there is certainly some of that. But the questions, “What business?” and “What economics?” makes perfectly clear this is a story about very large corporate entities. The kind that can pay for the hagiographies.
The Missionary Men (Mostly)
In any case, let’s sit on the word “mission” that I used above. It is apropos to this point of view because the comparison I now make for these corporate missionaries is to religious missionaries. Christian missionaries to be precise, those dating back as far as, say, 47CE.
Christian missionaries from Paul (Saul) and onward to the Jesuits, sect-specific proselytizers like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, Baptists, the Evangelicals and their late 20th-century televangelist offshoots, and all of the Arena-Rock Christians (Hillsong) have been prodigious and prolific in their recruitment efforts through the millennia.
Where Proselytization is The Name of The Game
Christianity is, in fact, the largest global religion in terms of both adherents and diaspora for a very simple reason. It has always been about proselytization and conversion. (I am, of course, assuming that in the course of two millennia, a 7-century age difference between it an Islam is not a truly material factor. I could be wrong. But then again, Islam is a proselytizing religion as well. So there’s that.)
Not that any of us were there in the early days, or in the heyday of the Jesuit missions, but we have to assume that it was as potent then as the Evangelical movement and whatever Hillsong purports to be are today. The long and the short of it is that when it comes to publicizing one’s position and drawing over adherents, nobody and nothing holds a candle to Christianity (and Islam). It is the ne plus ultra of converting minds to a particular belief set.
Which brings me back around to the pro-corporatists I mentioned earlier. Without a doubt they—doling out money (as corporations will do when it serves their longer term purpose)—should be at an advantage over a movement that
asked for demanded money to participate and belong. They aren’t. But the corporatist track record of convincing the world that its values and needs are everyone’s values and needs (maybe even ahead of everyone else), has been astonishing.
That in major nation-states the law codifies a share capital corporation as a “person” ought to be sufficient proof. If it’s not, then one need only look to how corporations control the political landscape. True, it buys that control with donations and so forth. But that’s not the jaw-dropping part: those who are losing to the corporate gain (i.e., people whose support from its government is withdrawn in favour of billions and billions of dollars worth of support for corporations) support the corporatist position.
If it were only the rubes that are easily convinced to say something stupid for a mock interviewer that put the corporate (or their proxies, the so-called 1%) interest ahead of their own, perhaps it could be laughed off. But it’s not. Were it only those that know which side their artisanal bread is buttered on that put their overlord’s interests ahead of their own, perhaps it could be excused to pocketbook allegiance. But it’s not. The belief is pervasive. Seemingly in good times and bad.
In fact, corporatism is arguably a successful belief system implanted in the broad psyche by a relatively brief (at least as compared to Christianity) effort to proselytize the non-believers. I could go on here, but the point is well made, I think. There will be plenty of time to elaborate.
Feel free to lurk about my “oeuvre” as it were to get a flavour for how the series on Capitalism as Religion is likely to bend some long-standing poles.