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The Enchantments of Mammon

How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

Eugene McCarraher



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Belknap Press
12 November 2019
Far from displacing religions, as has been supposed, capitalism became one, with money as its deity. Eugene McCarraher reveals how mammon ensnared us and how we can find a more humane, sacramental way of being in the world.

If socialists and Wall Street bankers can agree on anything, it is the extreme rationalism of capital. At least since Max Weber, capitalism has been understood as part of the ?disenchantment? of the world, stripping material objects and social relations of their mystery and sacredness. Ignoring the motive force of the spirit, capitalism rejects the awe-inspiring divine for the economics of supply and demand.

Eugene McCarraher challenges this conventional view. Capitalism, he argues, is full of sacrament, whether or not it is acknowledged. Capitalist enchantment first flowered in the fields and factories of England and was brought to America by Puritans and evangelicals whose doctrine made ample room for industry and profit. Later, the corporation was mystically animated with human personhood, to preside over the Fordist endeavor to build a heavenly city of mechanized production and communion. By the twenty-first century, capitalism has become thoroughly enchanted by the neoliberal deification of ?the market.?

Informed by cultural history and theology as well as economics, management theory, and marketing, The Enchantments of Mammon looks not to Marx and progressivism but to nineteenth-century Romantics for salvation. The Romantic imagination favors craft, the commons, and sensitivity to natural wonder. It promotes labor that, for the sake of the person, combines reason, creativity, and mutual aid. In this impassioned challenge, McCarraher makes the case that capitalism has hijacked and redirected our intrinsic longing for divinity?and urges us to break its hold on our souls.
By:   Eugene McCarraher
Imprint:   Belknap Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780674984615
ISBN 10:   0674984617
Pages:   816
Publication Date:   12 November 2019
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  Undergraduate ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Eugene McCarraher is Associate Professor of Humanities at Villanova University and the author of Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. He has written for Dissent and The Nation and contributes regularly to Commonweal, The Hedgehog Review, and Raritan. His work on The Enchantments of Mammon was supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Reviews for The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

McCarraher's book is more brilliant, more capacious, and more entertaining, page by page, than his most ardent fans dared hope. The magnitude of his accomplishment--an account of American capitalism as a religion that begins in early modernity and extends to the present, an analysis that goes far beyond the loose versions of this argument we've seen before (Economists are like clergy! The Fed is like a church!) and rewrites American intellectual history as it does so--will stun even skeptical readers...It is a wonder, an enchantment on a world that has so forgotten itself as to think enchantments rare.-- (11/22/2019) One of the most impressive books I've ever read...The depth and range of McCarraher's scholarship are incredible...A must-read for anyone serious about the mesmerizing power of capitalism.--Mark Dunbar The Humanist (09/01/2019) [A] monumental labor of love...There have been marvelous studies of contemporary capitalism published in recent years...But this is an extraordinary work of intellectual history as well as a scholarly tour de force, a bracing polemic, and a work of Christian prophecy...It is beautifully written and a magnificent read...McCarraher challenges more than 200 years of post-Enlightenment assumptions about the way we live and work...This mammoth portrait of the religious longings at the heart of secular materialism carries a bleak message: 20th-century fantasies of the world as one global business have been realized...Refreshingly original and splendidly pulled off.--The Observer (12/22/2019) Extraordinary...Like MacIntyre, McCarraher both recognizes and detests capitalism's spoliations of creation and disintegration of communities, and casts a fond, forlorn eye toward the possibility of restoring a rationality of genuine human life...A majestic achievement. It will enjoy a long posterity...It is a work of great moral and spiritual intelligence, and one that invites contemplation about things we can't afford not to care about deeply.-- (01/01/2020) Surveying the history of capitalism from seventeenth-century England to the mid-twentieth-century United States, McCarraher argues in this magisterial work that capitalism is a corruption of the sacramental nature of the world and our desire to flourish within it. The keenest insights and best hopes for a more humane world reside not within secular traditions but within the Romantic lineage of joy and participation. The Enchantments of Mammon is a towering achievement: an exquisitely crafted refusal of the metaphysics of the free market and reassurance that the conditions of human flourishing are well within our reach.--Charles Marsh, author of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer A tour de force. McCarraher argues that capitalism is a successor faith, rather than a successor to faith. The capitalist faith in this telling is a heretical, blaspheming Black Mass of perverse sacramentality that sanctions domination by pretending to the status of immutable, impersonal laws of nature. In the world of economic enchantment masquerading as hard-eyed realism, McCarraher urges us to keep open an imaginative window through which to glimpse alternatives. His magnificent intellectual history recovers many such opportunities and invites us to appraise them with fresh eyes.--Bethany Moreton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart An intellectually ambitious, analytically insightful, engagingly well written, and unfashionably radical yet timely study of the relationship among capitalism, religion, society, and culture in the United States. McCarraher argues that modern capitalism has not been a secularizing movement from enchantment to disenchantment, but rather an alternative, competing form of enchantment. He is sharply critical of the underlying assumptions and damaging consequences of modern capitalism with its emphasis on extractive efficiency and profit-making. A powerful, impressive work.--Brad Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation With this book McCarraher aspires to nothing less than a history of the soul under capitalism. Far from living in a secular, disenchanted world, he argues, ours is a world of 'misenchantment, ' in which longings for communion are perverted into a religion of plunder and technological control. Capitalism emerges here not as a system of market exchange or class domination but as an affront to the divine creation of which we are a part. An astonishing work of history and criticism.--Casey Nelson Blake, author of The Arts of Democracy The Enchantments of Mammon is a beautiful, stirring achievement. In a bold new synthesis ranging from early modern Europe to the contemporary United States, McCarraher challenges the received wisdom regarding the meanings of modernity and rationality, allowing us to look at familiar concepts in fresh and fruitful ways. This is truly a game-changer--the history of capitalism will never look the same again.--Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation

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