Disenchantment (German: Entzauberung) is a term in the social sciences used to describe the cultural rationalization and devaluation of mysticism apparent in modern society. The concept was originally coined by Max Weber to describe the character of modernized, bureaucratic, secularized Western society, where scientific understanding is more highly valued than belief, and where processes are oriented toward rational goals. It is not unrelated to the notion of desacralization, whereby the structures and institutions that previously channeled spiritual belief into rituals that promoted collective identities came under attack and waned in popularity. According to Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, the ritual of sacrifice involved two processes: sacralization and desacralization. The first process endows a profane offering with sacred properties -- consecration -- which provides a bridge of communication between the worlds of the sacred and profane. Once the sacrifice has been made, the ritual must be desacralized in order to return the worlds of the sacred and profane to their proper places (Bell 1997, 26).

Disenchantment operates on a macro-level, rather than the micro-level described above. It also destroys part of the process whereby the chaotic social elements that require sacralization in the first place continue with mere knowledge as their antidote. Thereby disenchantment can be related to Durkheim's concept of anomie: an un-mooring of the individual from the ties that bind in society.[1]

See also


  1. ^ Bell, Catherine (1997). Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.