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Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium

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Abstract:

Without wishing to deny the historical reality of processes of disenchantment, this paper challenges the classic Weberian account of disenchantment as a uni-directional and universalizing tendency of modernity. This argument has a number of stages. (1) Reason and rationalization are distinguished from each other. (2) The historical relationships between modernity, Reason and rationalization are problematized. (3) The scale and scope of rationalization are questioned (it is partial and unsuccessful, almost by definition). (4) Secularization and the 'decline of magic' are distinguished from each other. (5) Enchantment and re-enchantment are placed at the heart of modernity. Enchantment and re-enchantment are both distinctively modern and a response to modernity. While disenchantment has been a stimulus to (re)enchantment, enchantment may generate its own disenchantments. The two are opposite sides of one coin. This argument is exemplified by a brief look at the contradictions, alarms and damp squibs of the recent Millennium.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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