Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world…. In the authority of universal concepts the Enlightenment detected a fear of the demons through whose effigies human beings had tried to influence nature in magic rituals. From now on matter was finally to be controlled without the illusion of immanent powers or hidden properties.
-Max Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno, Dialektik der Aufklärung, 1947
This page is for my new book, The Myth of Disenchantment:
Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Read below for a master list of related pages and extra content.
Brief summary: “A great many theorists have argued that the defining feature of modernity is that people no longer believe in spirits, myths, or magic. Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm argues that as broad cultural history goes, this narrative is wrong, as attempts to suppress magic have failed more often than they have succeeded. Even the human sciences have been more enchanted than is commonly supposed. But that raises the question: How did a magical, spiritualist, mesmerized Europe ever convince itself that it was disenchanted?
Josephson-Storm traces the history of the myth of disenchantment in the births of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, folklore, psychoanalysis, and religious studies. Ironically, the myth of mythless modernity formed at the very time that Britain, France, and Germany were in the midst of occult and spiritualist revivals. Indeed, Josephson-Storm argues, these disciplines’ founding figures were not only aware of, but profoundly enmeshed in, the occult milieu; and it was specifically in response to this burgeoning culture of spirits and magic that they produced notions of a disenchanted world. For scholars who have already become suspicious of the disenchantment thesis, The Myth of Disenchantment explains how in the face of widespread belief in spirits and magic disenchantment nevertheless came to function as a regime of truth or disciplinary norm in the human sciences.
By providing a novel history of the human sciences and their connection to esotericism, The Myth of Disenchantment dispatches with most widely held accounts of modernity and its break from the premodern past.”
Personal note: I think of a book as opening a dialogue with readers. In this respect, I want to be more open to email contact and conversation than is typical for academic authors. I’m always happy to discuss issues the book evokes, answer questions, or provide clarifications. You can email me via contact information on my academic website at Williams College or post something in the comments section here. I may not reply immediately, but I will respond.
Master-List of Extra Content:
Ordering The Myth of Disenchantment:
- University of Chicago official page for the book (includes table of contents).
- Order it on Amazon US here: LINK, Amazon UK: LINK
- I’ve made an errata page here.
- Click here to download a PRESS KIT pdf about the book. Includes bullet points and a short interview.
Related Guest Blog Posts and Interviews:
- A discussion of how I came to write the book (and its relevance for theorizing the relationship between Religion and Science) can be found on Cosmologics Magazine.
- A brief introduction to the book can be found on Immanent Frame
- A brief interview with me about the book can be read at Religion Dispatches.
- An audio interview with “New Books in Intellectual History” for their podcast is here.
- An in-depth interview with the British website “Dreamflesh” can be read here.
- A brief discussion of “Max Weber in the Realm of Enchantment” for Forbidden Histories can be found here.
- On November 19, 2017, there
will bewas an author meets Critics Panel on “The Myth of Disenchantment” at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Boston co sponsored by three program units–Cultural History of the Study of Religion, Philosophy of Religion, & Critical Theories and Discourses in Religion Units. I will be in attendance and excited to answer all and sundry questions about the book. If you are coming to the conference, please join me.