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The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

by Eugene McCarraher


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“An extraordinary work of intellectual history as well as a scholarly tour de force, a bracing polemic, and a work of Christian prophecy…McCarraher challenges more than 200 years of post-Enlightenment assumptions about the way we live and work.”
The Observer

At least since Max Weber, capitalism has been understood as part of the “disenchantment” of the world, stripping material objects and social relations of their mystery and magic. In this magisterial work, Eugene McCarraher challenges this conventional view. Capitalism, he argues, is full of sacrament, whether one is prepared to acknowledge it or not. First flowering in the fields and factories of England and brought to America by Puritans and evangelicals, whose doctrine made ample room for industry and profit, capitalism has become so thoroughly enmeshed in the fabric of our society that our faith in “the market” has become sacrosanct.

Informed by cultural history and theology as well as management theory, The Enchantments of Mammon looks to nineteenth-century Romantics, whose vision of labor combined reason, creativity, and mutual aid, for salvation. In this impassioned challenge to some of our most firmly held assumptions, McCarraher argues that capitalism has hijacked our intrinsic longing for divinity—and urges us to break its hold on our souls.

“A majestic achievement…It is a work of great moral and spiritual intelligence, and one that invites contemplation about things we can’t afford not to care about deeply.”

“More brilliant, more capacious, and more entertaining, page by page, than his most ardent fans dared hope. The magnitude of his accomplishment—an account of American capitalism as a religion…will stun even skeptical readers.”
Christian Century

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674271098
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 04/05/2022
Pages: 816
Sales rank: 194,753
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Eugene McCarraher is Associate Professor of Humanities at Villanova University and the author of Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. He has written for Dissent and The Nation and contributes regularly to Commonweal, The Hedgehog Review, and Raritan. His work on The Enchantments of Mammon was supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part 1 The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things: Capitalist Enchantment in Europe, 1600-1914 19

1 About His Business: The Medieval Sacramental Economy, the Protestant Theology of "Improvement," and the Emergence of Capitalist Enchantment 23

2 The God among Commodities: Christian Political Economy, Marx on Fetishism, and the Power of Money in Bourgeois Society 48

3 The Poetry of the Past: Romantic Anticapitalism and the Sacramental Imagination 67

Part 2 A Hundred Dollars, a Hundred Devils: Mammon in America, 1492-1870 107

4 Errand into the Marketplace: The Puritan Covenant Theology of Capitalism 111

5 The Righteous Friends of Mammon: Evangelicals, Mormons, Slaveholders, and the Proprietary Dispensation 125

6 Glows and Glories and Final Illustriousness: Transcendentalism, the Religion of the Slaves, and the Romantic Imagination in Antebellum America 153

Part 3 The Mystical Body of Business: The Corporate Reconstruction of Capitalist Enchantment, 1870-1920 177

7 God Gave Me My Money: The Incorporation of America and the Persistence of Evangelical Enchantment 183

8 The Soulful Corporation: Corporate Fetishism and the Incorporation of Enchantment 196

9 Blazers of the One True Way: Corporate Humanism, Management Theory, and the Mechanization of Communion 210

10 The Spirit of the Thing: Advertising and the Incorporation of the Beatific Vision 225

11 Modern Communion: Corporate Liberalism and Imperialist Eschatology 243

Part 4 The Beloved Commonwealth: Visions of Cooperative Enchantment, 1870-1920 255

12 The Producers' Jeremiad: The Populist Reformation of the Covenant Theology 261

13 The Cross Is Bending: The Socialist Jeremiad and the Covenant Theology 281

14 The Priesthood of Art: Anarchism, Arts and Crafts, and the Re-enchantment of the World 296

15 Another Kingdom of Being: The Crisis of Metaphysical Experience and the Search for Passionate Vision 328

Part 5 The Heavenly City of Fordism: Enchantment in the Machine Age, 1920-1945 361

16 Business Is the Soul of America: The New Capitalism and the Business Millennium 367

17 The American Century and the Magic Kingdom: Mythologies of the Machine Age 379

18 A New Order and Creed: Human Relations as Fordist Moral Philosophy 393

19 Beauty as the New Business Tool: Advertising, Industrial Design, and the Enchantment of Corporate Modernism 402

Part 6 Predicaments of Human Divinity: Critics of Fordist Enchantment, 1920-1945 427

20 The Mysticism of Numbers: Postwar Enthusiasm for Technocracy 433

21 Secular Prayers and Impieties: The Cultural Front as Migration of the Holy 440

22 Small Is Beautiful: The Religion of Small Property and Lewis Mumford's Novum Organum 464

23 Human Divinity: F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Agee, and the Son of God 493

Part 7 One Vast and Ecumenical Holding Company: The Prehistory of Neoliberal Enchantment, 1945-1975 507

24 God's in His Heaven, All's Right with the World: The Political Economy of Containment and the Economic Theology of the Cold War Consensus 517

25 Machines of Loving Grace: Auguries of the Corporate Counterculture 537

26 The New Testament of Capitalism: The Resurgence of Evangelical Enchantment and the Theology of Neoliberalism 580

27 The Statues of Daedalus: Postmaterialism and the Failure of the Liberal Imagination 611

28 To Live Instead of Making History: Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown, and the Romantic Eschatology of Immanence 622

29 Heaven Which Exists and Is Everywhere around Us: The Sacramental Vision of Postwar Utopians 634

Epilogue 663

Notes 681

Acknowledgments 789

Index 793

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