In 2019 a book was published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in the USA that in nearly 800 pages in length. Its author is Eugene McCarraher, Associate Professor at Villanova University; its title: The Enchantments of Mammon - How Capitalism Became The Religion Of Modernity. I bought my copy in 2021 but didn't make the time to begin reading until January of this year. My loss. This book is a masterpiece of scholarship and a wonderful testimony to the value of a morality that puts people before profit.
|Professor Eugene McCarraher and the front cover of his masterpiece, published in 1919 just before the coronavirus pandemic struck|
By the end of January, reading a little almost every day, I had left my bookmark at p.152 with the first five chapters under my belt. Since then, my own work on the 1919 Levant Mine Disaster chapter in Mine to Die, my book that is heading for publication in 2024, has delayed the publication of this blog post which is the first in a series of perhaps five posts that will give you the essence of Professor McCarraher's scholarship and vision.
Here, as tasters, are some of the reviews of The Enchantments of Mammon:
"... a game changer - the history of capitalism will never look the same." - Jackson Lears
"Capitalism emerges here ... as an affront to the divine creation of which we are a part. An astonishing work of history and criticism." - Casey Nelson Blake
"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
"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." - Bethany Moreton
"The author’s dogged idealism is uplifting. But Romantic countercultures have had an unsuccessful time challenging the church of Mammon. Sometimes, as McCarraher notes, their ideas have simply been monetised and co-opted into the next wave of capitalist accumulation. And at least some readers may be less surprised than he is at how hard it is to live in heaven, given the expectations there. There seems to be little sense here of original sin, or the tragic dimension to life.