Item description for The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion by Marcel Gauchet, Oscar Burge & Charles Taylor...
Overview Does religion have a place in the future of Western society? Author Marcel Gauchet reinterprets the development of the modern west in terms of mankind's changing relation to religion. Gauchet does not close the door on religion but rather invites us to explore its socially constructive powers, which continue to shape Western politics and conceptions of the state.
Marcel Gauchet has launched one of the most ambitious and controversial works of speculative history recently to appear, based on the contention that Christianity is "the religion of the end of religion." In "The Disenchantment of the World, " Gauchet reinterprets the development of the modern west, with all its political and psychological complexities, in terms of mankind's changing relation to religion. He views Western history as a movement away from religious society, beginning with prophetic Judaism, gaining tremendous momentum in Christianity, and eventually leading to the rise of the political state. Gauchet's view that monotheistic religion itself was a form of social revolution is rich with implications for readers in fields across the humanities and social sciences.
Life in religious society, Gauchet reminds us, involves a very different way of being than we know in our secular age: we must imagine prehistoric times where ever-present gods controlled every aspect of daily reality, and where ancestor worship grounded life's meaning in a far-off past. As prophecy-oriented religions shaped the concept of a single omnipotent God, one removed from the world and yet potentially knowable through prayer and reflection, human beings became increasingly free. Gauchet's paradoxical argument is that the development of human political and psychological autonomy must be understood against the backdrop of this double movement in religious consciousness--the growth of divine power and its increasing distance from human activity.
In a fitting tribute to this passionate and brilliantly argued book, Charles Taylor offers an equally provocative foreword. Offering interpretations of key concepts proposed by Gauchet, Taylor also explores an important question: Does religion have a place in the future of Western society? The book does not close the door on religion but rather invites us to explore its socially constructive powers, which continue to shape Western politics and conceptions of the state.
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Studio: Princeton University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.26" Width: 6.07" Height: 0.62" Weight: 0.8 lbs.
Release Date Oct 24, 1999
Publisher Princeton University Press
ISBN 0691029377 ISBN13 9780691029375
Availability 0 units.
More About Marcel Gauchet, Oscar Burge & Charles Taylor
Marcel Gauchet is the editor of LeDebat and the author of The Disenchantment of the World ( Princeton ).
Reviews - What do customers think about The Disenchantment of the World?
New and captivating ideas about our past Feb 4, 2006
French thought, killed by Foucault, Derrida, Lacan and the Postmodern gang, appears resurrected by the likes of Gauchet. In physics the most deeply piercing ideas are the simplest, and in the form of seemingly unrelated phenomena - gravity seen as geometry for example. Gauchet's ideas are like this. "Disenchantment" is emphatically not a political history of religion alone, but much more - a perspective on the development of ideas, civilization and human thought.
Gauchet practices the tradition of substantive history Postmoderns "failed to extinguish". However, like lawyers and their guarded legalese, sociologists have their own vocabulary that could be rendered simple but isn't. In keeping with this tradition Gauchet includes every idea and caveat under the sun by a single period. Destined never to be a best seller, obtuse, bloated lines or paragraphs require multiple re-readings but efforts receive magnificent rewards for insights found nowhere else.
The State is the first religious revolution in history, claims Gauchet. Per Gauchet the original religion - before advent of the city - intended "to preserve their inviolable legacy, repeating their sacred teaching". But structurally the State comes with a hierarchy between people and their gods, some closer than others. "The gods withdraw and simultaneously the nonquestionable becomes questionable, affirmed by the hold humans have on the organization of their own world." "The imperial ambition to dominate the world comes with the [advent of] the State", bringing upheaval to man's unchanging position in the world. "The power of a few individuals to act in the name of the gods is the barely perceptible, yet irreversible step toward everyone having an influence on the god's decrees... The State ushers in an age of opposition between social structure and the essence of [religion]. Political domination, which decisively entangles the gods in history, will prove to be the invisible hoist lifting us out of the religious." Opportunities to depart from previous religious ways presented themselves. Unavoidable questions arose concerning our fate, the search was on, each for themselves, fractured compared to what began as unquestioned practice of one's place in the cosmos. As Gauchet notes with "disenchantment" (leading to our loss of roll in god's creation dictated by the social structure) humans become more autonomous but contradictions arise; the promise of eternal life, but also of life's renunciation (to inhance our image of the next); our promise justified by the god's will, separate from that god, but desirous of fusing with that god. Religion's decline is paid for by the difficulty of individuation. The greater our degree of individuation, the greater our problem of self, the greater interest in past eras when one need not deal with uncertainties this new way provided. What is now experienced as problematic, spiritual systems experienced as resolved.
The State's development, says Gauchet, is responsible for the so called Axial Age when all the world's religions from Near East to Far East sprang forth by concepts emergent from circumstances of the State. "Higher religions" of the Axial Age sought to unify their nature via supreme transcendent principles - a superior God, Order, Idea. Ideas beyond mere order in life and no longer as self-evident as simply taking one's place, repeating old rituals. One eventually must seek this higher reality via devotion / revelation (Near East) or understanding / enlightenment (Far East) - the conception moment of individuation.
Gauchet notes monotheism first invented by Akhenaton was on track with what had been taking place in Mesopotamia via Assyria and Babylon as Assur and Marduk were ethical superiors to their pantheon, tending to simplify it. However, the critical difference of Israelite's god was not based on the old ancestral order but on a commitment to his saving intervention - as Israel did, after all, lay between the most powerful forces on earth, thus creating something new out of an extreme social need to dominate what dominated them. Once established by the prophets who sound a good deal like lobbyists, there developed clarity of Judaism's internal contradiction - a universal God exclusively for but one of his creations. At the height of human evisceration and unsettling of the Roman Empire - like Brooks Adams' 1896 illuminating "Law Of Civilization And Decay" - Christianity responds with its own conceptual twist. Jesus is of God, maintaining that link as before, but God is now for all people, not one group alone. "We are not dealing with a challenge to reason, but to the logic of a cultural system," writes Gauchet, and only contradiction could supply the required response, leading people not to a terrestrial promised land as Moses had, but removing them spiritually from it while remaining bodily engaged in the suffering of life. A creative solution to another contradiction in empire between its inherited religious order of the old ways still present and the actual system of domination.
According to Gauchet, this separation and eviction of God from nature transforms everything that humans had held against themselves to maintain permanent identity with the past into a reversal of unrestrained action against everything around them. The old way submerged human order in nature's order, feeling at one with nature, a co-belonging so strong any damage done required ritual compensation restoring the balance. Nature becomes opposed and possessed in a renunciation of this world in the name of the other. God, having been made external to the world, the world then became external to humans. As God was withdrawn, our perception of "the world changed from something unalterable to something to be constituted." A full turn about occurs, from domination of people to the domination of nature. (Hence our current worldwide environmental decline, the Far East only mimicking Western process without the belief system.) Though it could use more reference to historical evidence a remarkable book.
one of the major books of the eighties in France. Secularisa Jan 6, 1999
This book was published already in 1985 in France and has had an significant influence in intellectual circles. The main argument of Gauchet is that secularisation of society (the word "désenchantement" directly refers to Max Weber's Entzauberaung) is both rooted in christianity and a process against christianity. The christian religion, by laying down the ground for it, made it possible for modern societies (say, after 1789 in France and continental Europe) to abandon heteronomia (government of the society and of the self by an external authority, beit God, tradition, etc...) and to swich to autonomia (in the kantian sense, this is the self government of the individual and of society). Gauchet recently (1998) published a short book on the same theme, La religion dans la démocratie (Ed. Gallimard).
Although I quote the theme of the book under "secularisation", Gauchet rejects this concept, precisely because it is too much influenced by the religious "Weltanschauung". He rather speaks of "la sortie de la religion" (the exit of religion). I would say that this book is the book of an anthropologist of Wertern societies rather than of an historian or a philosopher.