Consumerists, collectivists and welfarists
There is an interesting, if rather misleading, new way of categorising socio-economic groups and values in South Africa: as consumerists, collectivists and welfarists.
I’m not sure how useful these terms are, or whether they are used by anyone else — a quick Google indicates that “collectivist” and “welfarist” are not generally used in the sense in which they are used in that article. They could therefore be quite misleading.
But, putting that aside for the moment, it made me think about which of those groups, in the terms defined in the article, comes closest to a Christian worldview. If Christians have the mind of Christ, which attitudes and values would one expect them to display?
Thinking about that spreads into all sorts of fields.
My first thought was that the consumerist view would obviously be out, as it seems to be diametrically opposed to Christian values.
The first clothing store for Orthodox Christian women will open in November in St Petersburg. The idea to open the store belongs to Nadezhda Belkova-Bertrash, a wife of a priest. She is sure the shop will become popular with Christian women, who frequently can’t find appropriate long modest skirts for going to church in other stores.
One participant in the discussion, an American of Greek origin, who rejected the idea vehemently, suggested that it was a purely Slavic notion. And thinking about it, I tend to agree. Anyone who saw the film My big fat Greek wedding might recall the bridesmaids’ dresses, and women in Greek parishes in South Africa tend to dress exactly as in the film, and a Sunday morning church service could be a yuppie fashion parade.
In some Protestant denominations, particularly those of the neopentecostal “prosperity” persuasion, consumerist values are not just evident in the dress of members of the congregation, but are specifically endorsed and promoted from the pulpit (which in such churches often seems to be made of transparent perspex).
But even in Russia, if the women dress modestly, what about male status symbols? Is someone going to open a car dealership for Christian cars of the non-yuppie variety? Clothing may be one example of a consumerist mentality, but it is by no means the only one.
Then there is the problem of the terms. “Collectivist”, to me, is not something that is really compatible with ubuntu. “Communitarian” might be a better word, but to me that denotes a specific Christian view of society as put forward by people like Dorothy Day.
“Welfarist” also has problems. I can understand the meaning put on it by the article, but in general use it suggests the idea of the Welfare State.
Nevertheless, I think these categories are worth thinking about, even if one has to try to think of better names for them. And are they the only three?