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Dialectics of disenchantment: A Weberian look at Western modernity


Wolfgang Schluchter

Until now, the ongoing debate on secularization has yielded no definite results. This is partly due to the multifaceted usage of the concept of secularization. Sometimes it is identified with disenchantment, a concept, introduced by Max Weber and applied in his comparative studies on religion since 1913. But Weber’s usage is much broader than the concept of secularization suggests. Surprisingly, the concept of disenchantment is also appropriated by Charles Taylor in his seminal work A Secular Age. However, upon a closer look it turns out that his usage of the concept does not coincide with Weber’s. In this article, I want to show in which regard the two authors join forces and in which they differ. The emphasis in the ensuing is on Max Weber, however, who attributed a more comprehensive meaning to the concept in distinguishing between religious and scientific disenchantment and in demonstrating, how these processes interacted historically and how they are related also to processes of reenchantment. However, in the final analysis both authors get together: Even in a secular age religion will not disappear, but the religious commitment has turned into an option, and insofar the religious situation has fundamentally changed in modernity.


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