The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion

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The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion

By Marcel Gauchet
Princeton University Press, 1997
228 pp. $24.95
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This book seeks to present a comprehensive history of the development of religion and its demise in contemporary society. Unlike Feuerbach and Hegel, Gauchet does not see secularization as a liberation from dogma and alienation. Modern secular man is tied to the future, which he cannot control, just as certainly as any religion tied him to the past. Indeed, Gauchet echoes Nietzsche and Heidegger in arguing that the transition from so- called primitive to "higher" religions during the Axial Age was a degeneration that made later secularization inevitable, and he sees Christianity in particular as an agent of religion's own undoing. While the historical thesis is provocative, the book's present-day normative implications are less than clear.