by Akim Reinhardt
In part I of this essay, I offered a broad re-definition of the term “Dark Ages,” using it to describe any historical period when dogma becomes ascendant and flattens people's perceptions of humanity's very real complexities. From there, I discussed how the conventional Dark Ages, marked by religious dogma's domination medieval Europe, were supplanted by a subsequent Dark Age; during the 19th and 20th centuries, racism and ethnocentrism complemented the rise of ethnic national states, to cast a pall on much of the Western world.
If part I of this essay sought to expand Dark Age perils beyond the threat of religious totalitarianism, then part II of this essay will seek to drag it out of the past and into the present. To identify modern forms of dogma that threaten to flatten our understanding of life's complexities.
In particular, I will focus on various forms of materialism as among the most potent dogmas that have created Dark Ages during the 20th century, and which continue to threaten the West here in the 21st century.
I began part I of this essay by begging forgiveness from European historians for recycling and attempting to redefine the term “Dark Age,” which most of them have long since discarded. I should probably begin part II of this essay then by requesting patience from philosophers. For I am not using the term “materialism” in the philosophic sense.
Rather, I am using “materialism” to identify dogmatic interpretations of the human condition that are based on economics. That of course is closer to the term “historical materialism,” which refers to Marxist interpretations of the past. And while I will discuss Marxism and the past, I will also be talking about free market interpretations and the present, so the strict Marxist phrase “materiaism” simply will not do. Therefor, I am claiming the word “materialism” in this essay to mean various economic interpretations, from both the Left and the Right, which make grand claims of not just of the economy, but also of broader social, political, and cultural realms.
Originally emanating out of Europe, I define materialism as dogma that views economics as an all-encompassing filter for explaining the human condition. Such dogma has since subdivided into numerous factions, each with millions of followers. And while various doctrines are in stiff competition with each other, all of dogmatic forms of materialism place economics front and center in an effort to explain and interpret the human condition, erroneously downplaying various cultural and social elements.
Marxism is hardly the oldest economic philosophy to be widely accepted in Europe, but it was the first to become a truly dominant dogma that has initiated Dark Ages in various parts of the world.