Author: Harrison Pitt

The Route to Re-Enchantment

The modern world cries out for definition. But only a handful of thinkers have been bold enough to answer the call, searching for that overarching essence which distinguishes the modern age from all that came before it. What does it mean to be Modern, as opposed to Medieval or Early Modern? Max Weber, the German sociologist, landed on the idea of Entzauberung, or disenchantment, when more than a century ago, he asked himself that question. Borrowed from Friedrich Schiller, the term disenchantment was meant by Weber to capture what it meant to live in the early 20th-century West, with its bureaucratic systems and secular rationalist values. This was a culture which, after the Enlightenment, had outgrown piety and religious myths. Past cultures, honouring their local religious stories, certainly regarded the world as “a great enchanted garden”; but modernisation was the process of replacing these bygone charms with the rational administration of society by scientifically minded bureaucrats. Science and reason, thought Weber optimistically, would guarantee freedom for the citizens of this disenchanted world. Weber had no …