Disenchantment

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Disenchantment

Disenchantment with rhetoric about law that ignores legal realities:

A very important think piece by Jesse Singal: “There Have Been So Many Bad Lefty Free-Speech Takes Lately,” New York Magazine, November 12, 2017.

Disenchantment with the beltway culture that ignores any reality:

A poignant reflection on Washington, D.C. and writing by Tom Ricks: “Babylon Revisited: Melancholy Thoughts After a Short Trip to Washington, D.C.,” Foreign Policy, November 17, 2017.

“Disenchantment,” in Max Weber’s (1864-1920) words, means:

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. If we attempt to force and to ‘invent’ a monumental style in art, such miserable monstrosities are produced as the many monuments of the last twenty years [1897–1917].

Elaborating on Weber’s term, “disenchantment,” Richard Jenkins notes:

It is the historical process by which the natural world and all areas of human experience become experienced and understood as less mysterious; defined, at least in principle, as knowable, predictable and manipulable by humans; conquered by and incorporated into the interpretive schema of science and rational government. [1]

Yet, Jenkins points out, there may not be anything necessarily “modern” about this disenchantment:

Even if we disregard the rich variety of communities and ethnies in the pre-modern world, there is every reason to suggest that the European world, at least, has been disenchanted, in the sense of epistemically fragmented, for as long as we can perceive it in the historical record.[2]

NOTES

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[1] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium,” Max Weber Studies 1 (November 2000): 11–32 at 12; Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Translated and eds. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958) 55.

[2] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium” 15.

 


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