“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.”
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.”
Extraordinary...Like MacIntyre, McCarraher both recognizes and detests capitalism's spoliations of creation and disintegration of communities, and casts a fond, forlorn eye toward the possibility of restoring a rationality of genuine human life...A majestic achievement. It will enjoy a long posterity...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. -- David Bentley Hart * Commonweal * [A] monumental labor of love...There have been marvelous studies of contemporary capitalism published in recent years...But this is an extraordinary work of intellectual history as well as a scholarly tour de force, a bracing polemic, and a work of Christian prophecy...It is beautifully written and a magnificent read...McCarraher challenges more than 200 years of post-Enlightenment assumptions about the way we live and work...This mammoth portrait of the religious longings at the heart of secular materialism carries a bleak message: 20th-century fantasies of the world as one global business have been realized...Refreshingly original and splendidly pulled off. * The Observer * McCarraher's book is 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 that begins in early modernity and extends to the present, an analysis that goes far beyond the loose versions of this argument we've seen before (Economists are like clergy! The Fed is like a church!) and rewrites American intellectual history as it does so-will stun even skeptical readers...It is a wonder, an enchantment on a world that has so forgotten itself as to think enchantments rare. -- Philip Christman * Christian Century * A monumental, scholarly but also readable survey of how the champions of capitalism, their acolytes and foot soldiers-over and over, and with conspicuous success-reframed traditional religious longings and beloved communities as goals that could be achieved through the pursuit of profit...As enthralling a work of intellectual history as you could hope to read. -- Michael Duggan * Catholic Herald * A beguiling 800-page tour de force...[A] sweeping history...The author claims, with considerable evidence, that capitalism, too, is a form of worship, that it is a religion of modernity...Scintillating. -- Donald Sassoon * Church Times * A genuine delight to read...[A] searing excoriation of economics as it is currently practiced...An extraordinary book...It is difficult to characterize this book as anything but a masterpiece for its synthesis of intellectual history, anticapitalist polemic, and Romantic imagination. There is a great deal to be gained from McCarraher's arguments. -- Daniel Walden * Current Affairs * One of the most impressive books I've ever read...The depth and range of McCarraher's scholarship are incredible...A must-read for anyone serious about the mesmerizing power of capitalism. -- Mark Dunbar * The Humanist * A vitally important book...It could have an impact similar to Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue...Certainly it is a book people concerned about the state of the world and moral theology should be aware of...McCarraher...explains how capitalism has become the religion of the modern world...This detailed account of the idolatries of our age deserves wide readership and detailed examination. -- Frank Litton * Irish Catholic * The Enchantments of Mammon is a beautiful, stirring achievement. In a bold new synthesis ranging from early modern Europe to the contemporary United States, McCarraher challenges the received wisdom regarding the meanings of modernity and rationality, allowing us to look at familiar concepts in fresh and fruitful ways. This is truly a game-changer-the history of capitalism will never look the same again. -- Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation With this book McCarraher aspires to nothing less than a history of the soul under capitalism. Far from living in a secular, disenchanted world, he argues, ours is a world of 'misenchantment,' in which longings for communion are perverted into a religion of plunder and technological control. Capitalism emerges here not as a system of market exchange or class domination but as an affront to the divine creation of which we are a part. An astonishing work of history and criticism. -- Casey Nelson Blake, author of The Arts of Democracy An intellectually ambitious, analytically insightful, engagingly well written, and unfashionably radical yet timely study of the relationship among capitalism, religion, society, and culture in the United States. McCarraher argues that modern capitalism has not been a secularizing movement from enchantment to disenchantment, but rather an alternative, competing form of enchantment. He is sharply critical of the underlying assumptions and damaging consequences of modern capitalism with its emphasis on extractive efficiency and profit-making. A powerful, impressive work. -- Brad Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation A tour de force. McCarraher argues that capitalism is a successor faith, rather than a successor to faith. The capitalist faith in this telling is a heretical, blaspheming Black Mass of perverse sacramentality that sanctions domination by pretending to the status of immutable, impersonal laws of nature. In the world of economic enchantment masquerading as hard-eyed realism, McCarraher urges us to keep open an imaginative window through which to glimpse alternatives. His magnificent intellectual history recovers many such opportunities and invites us to appraise them with fresh eyes. -- Bethany Moreton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart Surveying the history of capitalism from seventeenth-century England to the mid-twentieth-century United States, McCarraher argues in this magisterial work that capitalism is a corruption of the sacramental nature of the world and our desire to flourish within it. The keenest insights and best hopes for a more humane world reside not within secular traditions but within the Romantic lineage of joy and participation. The Enchantments of Mammon is a towering achievement: an exquisitely crafted refusal of the metaphysics of the free market and reassurance that the conditions of human flourishing are well within our reach. -- Charles Marsh, author of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer McCarraher savages the sacralized fantasy of perpetual economic growth-purportedly guided by the dictates of reason-promulgated on the Left (Neo-liberalism and Socialism) and the Right. Against this worship of accumulation are set the admirable but futile efforts of those who, over time, have agitated against the idolatry of lucre. Is it possible for us to turn our eyes away from this false God? -- Bill Marx * Arts Fuse * Excellent...Argues for a Romanticism-inflected socialism...monumental. -- John Ehrett * Between Two Kingdoms * A fascinating book...which asserts, among other things, that capitalism is the religion of modernity. -- Darrell Lackey * Divergence * A magnificent work of historical scholarship, a thorough account of the rise of capitalism in the modern age. And yet it is not an economics tome, or even really a history, but rather a treatise on religion and the values that pervade society. It is also full of moral insights, with stinging critiques of a worldview that reduces human experience to opportunities for exchange...Highly readable. * The Interim * A thoughtful, beautifully written book, tracing the ways in which the values of capitalism-greed, productivity, competition, selfishness-became confounded with notions of divinity, and of God's plan for and involvement in the lives of the divinity's alleged favorite creation...Helps explain the hegemony of capitalist ideas in societies where religion is important even when the material interests of the working class ought clearly to expose the depravity and, for the religiously-minded, the ungodliness, of capitalism as actually practiced. -- Alvin Finkel * Labour * Much needed and much welcomed...The time into which McCarraher's work speaks is a time perhaps readied to hear something different. A world enchanted by McDonald's and administered by McDonnell-Douglas has begun to lose its shine, especially when it culminates in carnival hucksters parading as political, business, and religious leaders. It is time for a new and yet old word, a Christian socialism that resists the lure of capitalist enchantment. -- D. Stephen Long and Tyler Womack * Modern Theology * [An] immense work of historical synthesis. -- Stuart Walton * Review 31 * A vigorous intellectual history that challenges conventional social-science assumptions about the modern world. -- Christopher Clark * Journal of Modern History *