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« Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Places  »

I love the title of this blog entry, but the credit for it all goes to Jon Pahl who wrote the book on it. If you’re already quite aware of the religious worship underway at malls, well and good. If not, consider. Because humans are defined first and foremost as consumers, buying is our primary act of worship. No other ability, interest, or desire that we have is as important to our participation in economic religion as purchasing. Fulfilling our acquisitive desires will improve our lives.

The products available for purchase are the result of human and corporate processes that take nature’s wild capital, extract it as cheaply as possible, and transform it into commodities for sale. It is shopping mall religion’s sacred, sacramental, and transformative process by which the natural world is reshaped for the holy use of accumulating wealth and delivering to humans what we need, desire, or can be talked into.

Sometimes we shop for products online or by going to stores. But malls can take us to a new level. Large malls are excellent sacred places for worshipful rituals of looking, touching, comparing, and buying. Music and restful fountains provide worshipful ambiance, getting us in the mood for the maximum experience.

One of the most important rituals is finding a bargain. Bargain buying floods malls and goes far beyond them. It fulfills our innate rational selves who are intent on getting the best quality for the lowest price, whether the purchase is an upperend house or an item in a 99 cent store. To pay more than someone else did is to have underperformed in this key ritual and may evoke shame.

The moment of payment becomes an especially close interaction with The Market and others gods in the pantheon. There we exchange something of ourselves for something distributed by the deities. Our new purchase can stir feelings of joy and gratitude that impact our sense of purpose, meaning, and self-worth. 

Beyond simpler acts of worship, there’s sacrificial worship. It factors large in the pantheon of the global economy — most notably, the deity, War, who is the protector of the powers that roam Earth seeking resources and markets. War demands the sacrifice of able-bodied men and women. Though controversial, human sacrifice continues to be an important part of economic religion. It is carefully prepared for. When sacrificial deaths happen, they are highly ritualized.

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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for the shout-out; glad you found the book of value. Malls now mark the key feature, aside from the military, of American empire.... Jon Pahl
April 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJon Pahl

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