Re-Enchanting Materialism

The worldwide religious revival may be a reaction to the disenchantment of the world. Sven-Eric Liedman looks at the possibility of an enchanted materialism, in Eurozine:

The untarnished optimism for progress has demanded, as we have witnessed, that all of life’s and society’s integral components be ingested into the same process. In effect, that construction proved early on to not hold water. Nazi Germany and The Soviet Union managed to combine stern dictatorship with economic, technological, and scientific progress. The People’s Republic of China embodies a ready example of the same thing today.

Thus, the great development project that the Enlightenment philosophers once launched does not appear to be cast in a single slab. One might say that contains a hard component – the hard enlightenment – consisting of science (at least the exact one), technology, the economy, and modern rational administration; these elements are indeed closely connected. In these fields, the development process has persisted. For us, it goes without saying that today’s computers are better than yesterday’s, but that they will be surpassed by tomorrow’s. Each research grant is more or less expected to render a significant scientific breakthrough. Economists take for granted that a country’s GNP will grow each year. If it does not, something must be wrong.

Within this hard enlightenment, when considered singularly, the enchantment of modernity remains; that which cannot be solved today can be solved tomorrow.

But there are also the soft parts to development, where no advances can be taken for granted or considered natural.