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Our Philosophy – Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr

The Position of Ethics in Relation to Capitalism

Because the capitalistic system was filled with the spirit of materialism, morality was removed from the picture. It was nowhere to be found in the system. Put more correctly, its notions and criteria underwent a change. The individual interest was declared as the highest objective, and all kinds of freedom as means for fulfilling that kind of interest. This resulted in most of the severe trials, catastrophes, tragedies and misfortunes that the modern world has experienced.

Supporters of capitalistic democracy may defend this system’s perspective on the individual and his personal interests by saying that the individual’s aim is in itself a fulfillment of the social interest, and the results that morality achieves by its spiritual principles are achieved in a capitalistic democratic society, yet not by way of morality, but by way of having and serving individual motives. For when a human being performs asocial service (p. 21), he also fulfills a personal interest, since he is a part of the society for whose sake he works. Moreover, when he rescues the life of an individual in danger, he, too, derives a benefit from chat, since the [redeemed] living individual will perform a service for the social organization. Thus, the rescuer regains a portion of this service. Hence, the personal motive and beneficial sense are sufficient for providing and securing the social interests since, in the last analysis, these interests are reduced to personal interests and individual benefits.

This defense is closer to vivid imagination than to evidence. Imagine for yourself if the practical criterion in life for every individual in the nation ware the fulfillment, on the largest scale and for the longest term, of his benefits and personal interests, and if the state provided the individual with freedom, glorified him without reservation or limit, how would these individuals define social action? Further, how could the linkage of social welfare to the individual suffice for directing an individual to the anions called for by ethical values when many of these actions do not benefit the individual? If, on the other hand, it happens that such actions involve some benefit (to the individual) since he is a member of society, that slight benefit, which is not grasped by a human being except by means of analytical scrutiny, is often rivaled by the absence of immediate benefits or personal interests that find their assured attainment in freedom. Thus, the individual abolishes any ethical scheme or spiritual consideration for their sake.

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