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date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The “disenchantment of the world” is a famous formulation of Max Weber’s, one taken up in Walter Benjamin’s “Elective Affinities” essay. This chapter analyzes Weber’s conception of disenchantment in the context of his work. Two aspects of his discussion can be distinguished: religious-historical and scientific-historical. Weber’s preference for principled consistency, for instance, in the Calvinist sects, is normally evaluated positively. But it can be shown to cloud his vision of much more complex issues, such as the problem of “meaning.” Weber identified the decisive consequences of disenchantment with a loss of meaning. But disenchantment does not eo ipso have to signify a loss of meaning in life. In this respect Weber was a child of his times, trapped in a cultural context characterized by a newly established Christianity born from the failed revolutions of 1848, as well as by the process of industrialization. A role was also played by Nietzsche’s widespread influence. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Weber’s conception of disenchantment in relation to the contrasting views of Benjamin and Robert Bellah.

Keywords: disenchantment, re-enchantment, loss of meaning, secularization, myth, multiple modernities

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