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Book: Enchantment

Chapter: The Disenchantment Thesis

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.43965


In this chapter, I provide an overview of the disenchantment thesis. Popularized by Max Weber, the disenchantment thesis argues that specific modern developments have caused irreversible intellectual and affective changes such that modern individuals prefer scientific explanations over magical ones and are increasingly immune to feelings of fullness, mystery, and awe. Because disenchantment is often described both as an important feature of modernity and as involving important changes to religious belief and practice, I begin the chapter with a brief overview of modernity and secularization. I then provide overviews of the three most well-developed arguments for disenchantment: Max Weber’s arguments concerning intellectualization and rationalization, Charles Taylor’s account of a shift from what he calls porous to buffered selves, and Marcel Gauchet’s description of increased transcendence and the modern shift away from sacral dependence.

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