Marxist/Buddhist Retreat during the Pandemic

It’s time to start thinking about the second Marxist/Buddhist Retreat! 

But due to the current global shutdown, we won’t be able to do it in-person this year.  So, we’re going to conduct a sort of online retreat right here.  It will take the form of an extended reading and discussion of a single (very long) text: Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital and Ideology.  We’ll be posting responses weekly, meant to prompt some discussion of chapters of the book.  The posting of responses is limited to the retreat participants (five of us so far), but anyone should feel free to join in the discussion in the comment section.  

I will, as always, moderate comments to limit interference from trolls and reactionary morons (see my definition of that term here: On Being and Imbecile).  We want to limit discussion to those of us attempting to remain imbeciles (again, see my definition of that term in the post just linked).  

I think of this as an endeavor in line with my (admittedly peculiar) understanding of being a faithful buddhist.  Our goal will be, in large part, to try to make explicit the assumptions and commitments at work in Piketty’s analysis of, and proposed solution to, the crisis of global capitalism.  Making an assumption or commitment explicit, of course, doesn’t mean we cannot choose to share it—although it might mean that.  The typical academic response to this book has been largely hostile (although not universally so), and in Western academic thought to point out that someone has some assumptions or commitments it taken to be a “debunking,” a proof he or she has failed at the academic goal of pure objectivity.  The Buddhist approach, at least on my understanding, does not pretend to any such objectivity.  The goal of reducing the suffering of sentient beings is not at all “objective.”  Rather, our goal will be to become aware of the commitments we choose and the assumptions we accept—without this awareness causing them to lose their motivating power.

To facilitate this retreat, I’ve put my addiction project on hold for now.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I was not sure anyway that such a project would ever be of much use to those who would need it most.  My hope is that this retreat will be of more benefit to the participants as well as to the silent readers.

We will begin a week from today, with discussion of the introduction to the book.  If you want to follow along, get a copy and start reading!  We plan, at this point, to discuss about 50 pages every week.  My hope is that this will allow for serious and in-depth discussion of the argument being made, and give us all a chance to keep our minds alive during these dreary times of Netflix binges and obsessive Instagram scrolling.  

Anyone interested in joining the retreat in a more formal fashion, please email me.  If you simply want to join the conversation, post a comment at any time!  

Leave a comment


  1. aesop1

     /  May 15, 2020

    I’m interested in joining the Marxist/Buddhist retreat.


    Matt Helmick

    On Fri, May 15, 2020 at 7:19 AM The Faithful Buddhist wrote:

    > wtpepper posted: “It’s time to start thinking about the second > Marxist/Buddhist Retreat! But due to the current global shutdown, we won’t > be able to do it in-person this year. So, we’re going to conduct a sort of > online retreat right here. It will take the form of an e” >

  2. Nicola

     /  May 15, 2020

    I would like to join too.

  3. If you want to be part of facilitating this retreat, please send me an email at, so we can discuss what role you want to take on. Of course, if you just want to join the conversation here, there’s no need to email me—just keep reading! I’ll post the first discussion prompt next Friday.

  4. Hi Tom, this sounds like a great idea. I don’t think I have the time to commit to formal participation, but I’ll be following the discussions here with interest!

  5. Amber

     /  May 25, 2020

    I’ll be following along! I probably lack sufficient knowledge of economics to make any worthwhile comments, but that’s what learning from the conversation is for. Just popping in because it feels better than being an anonymous lurker. Solidarity.

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