“The more rationalised social life grows, the more vital the strategy becomes, but by the same token the more implausible it tends to appear. Textile manufac.turers do not generally make convincing epic heroes, and industrial Manchester is hard to recast as a medieval monastery. At the root of the problem lies the fact that economic life under capitalism is less dependent on extra- economic values than previous modes of production. One does not hammer steel for the sake of God, honour, Fatherland or paternalist lord. Since economic activity is without much built- in spiritual purpose, that meaning has to be imported from elsewhere, and the join is awkwardly apparent. The irony of the situation is plain. The very system which discredits religion in its spontaneously secular dealings is also the one most urgently in need of the symbolic unity that religion can provide. If traditional faith no longer offers such cohesion, new forms of it will have to be invented, all the way from mythology to the Religion of Humanity, Culture to Hellenism, high Victorian medievalism to F.H. BradleyÕs neo-Hegelianism or DurkheimÕs hypostasised Society. You may ditch religious belief ˆ la Nietzsche, demythologise it in the manner of the Feuerbachians, Saint-Simonians or Positivists, seek to transform the conditions which give birth to it in the style of Marx, treat it with F.D. Maurice as social critique rather than ruling ideology, or, as with Kierkegaard, greet the whole notion of social consensus with a certain radical- Protestant scepticism. Yet it is hard not to feel that while religion in its classical forms is rapidly losing ground, the various regents and understudies for it on offer are for the most part too esoteric, rationalistic or downright implausible to merit much credence. It is unlikely that those who have turned their faces from the Pope in Rome will flock instead to the High Priest of Humanity in Paris, Auguste Comte. It is this symbolic deficit of middle- class society that the recourse to mythology seeks to set right.36 It is in this spirit that Herder, despite his Enlightenment belief in Ôthe operation of one principle, namely human reasonÕ in the vast diversity of human affairs,37 inveighs against the rationalist misconception that enlight.enment can ever be simply a question of the understanding. Instead, it must touch the mainsprings of social action, which is to say the pieties and affections of ordinary men and women. Reason for Herder is a historical faculty, one which realises its inexorable purposes in a prodigal variety of cultural forms; and it must sink its taproot into the life of the senses if it is to prove effective.” – TERRY EAGLETON http://ift.tt/1QynWDH


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