Martin Buber, I-It, and Utopias: Economics and Dialogue in the Age of Neoliberal Globalisation

The turn to populism in Western governments is increasingly marked by a breakdown in communication between those who disagree. Martin Buber’s analysis of I-It as the nature of communication accounts for the impersonality and incivility of populist responses to globalisation. His writings on utopias account for the lack of centre in societies formed solely around bureaucratic means of production. This article elaborates upon his concept of I-It from I and Thou and his account of the breakdown of Marxism. These point to a loss of Thou as a binding and guiding force in community, leading to the uncivil distrust and populist reactions to globalisation. Neoliberal globalisation, as with the I-It interaction, is marked by a disconnection from nature in a system that is centred around self-interest. Buber theorised his Thou as the place where humanity is reconnected with nature and joined to others in dialogue. His work points to religious community as one witness to communities where forms of dialogue and interaction lie beyond market-based solution creation and negotiation. In Buber’s work, a diagnosis for the anger and mistrust between neighbours and citizens in the present moment becomes salient: a disconnection from Thou as the organizing centre of community.

Andrew Tinker

PhD Candidate, Duquesne University

Andrew Tinker is a PhD candidate from Duquesne University. He is also the Editorial Assistant of the Journal of Communication and Religion.