Tag Archives: Charles Mathewes

From the Archives: Peter Berger

Detail from cover from Penguin Random House.

Detail from cover from Penguin Random House.

It’s with sadness that we at The Hedgehog Review hear of the death of the sociologist Peter Berger, an occasional contributor to our pages and a friend to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

You can read his essay for our Globalization and Religion issue here, or his interview with Charles Mathewes here. Readers with institutional access might also be interested in THR publisher Joe Davis’s review of Berger’s memoir, Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist: How to Explain the World without Becoming a Bore.

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Re-enchantment: The Fall Issue Appears


Detail, “Views on paper #1,” by Hinke Schreuders (2014). Image courtesy of artist.

Re-enchantment: What is it? Who wants it? Good questions, and ones that we explore from various angles in our fall issue.

Up until the last two decades or so, believers in the rising tide of secularization, including most Western scholars and intellectuals, regarded “disenchantment” as the inevitable corollary of progress and enlightenment. But facts on the ground, including certain epochal events, defied received ideas and theory. Not only did religions and religious passions reassert themselves around the world (in both inspiring and terrifying ways), but growing doubts about the overly reductive claims of scientific reason opened the door to new understandings of cause and value, and of their possible connections. If the world had been truly disenchanted in the first place, was it now undergoing a kind of re-enchantment? Or were at least some secularists beginning to have second thoughts about the once and final disenchantment of the world?

If the Sea of Faith’s “melancholy, long withdrawing roar” was only a tidal fluctuation, the reverse flow is not bringing back “that old-time religion” so much as exposing the complex interconnections among things we once considered separate and distinct from one another, or even at odds. Some even insist that the world only passed from one form of enchantment to another. Debates about the sacred take subtle and interesting form in our time. The fall issue will touch on some of these questions.

As always, we’ve put some essays and book reviews up in full for you to sample:

For subscribers, we have Charles Mathewes on Peter Sloterdijk, Anna Marazuela Kim on iconoclasm, Matthew Scherer on modernity’s origin stories, and Eugene McCarraher on why we’ve never been disenchanted. In addition, we have essays from John Inazu and Wilfred McClay, along with reviews of new books by David Brooks, Joshua Cohen, Andrew Hartman, and Carlos Fraenkel. If you aren’t a subscriber, it’s an easy problem to fix: click here and subscribe today.

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The Debate Over Nudging

Think of this post as a little nudge to reflect further on “nudging.”

To wit: A recent post on this blog by Charles Mathewes and Christina McRorie, “Human Freedom and the Art of Nudging,” sparked three thoughtful replies on the blog Political Theology, each representing a different philosophical camp.

In the original post, Mathewes and McRorie point out that “nudging,” the idea of influencing your behavior by, say, placing the sugar-loaded cereal on a lower or higher shelf, is not  impeding your freedom, as some have contended. They write:

The issue, then, is not between freedom and tyranny. The issue is whether we will choose to consciously and deliberately shape those forces, or rather let them be determined by purely economic factors, as is the current status quo, such as in the case of the eye-level Kellogg’s cereal…. That is, the choice is not between a paternalistic “bureaucrat in Washington DC” and “you,” or between being “nudged” or manipulated by someone else or having your own innocent agency; the choice is between having the nudger be responsive to political leaders whom you put in power and the nudger be, say, some advertising executive over whose decisions you never have any say.

The responses on the Political Theology blog:

First, Hunter Baker and Micah Watson take the classical conservative viewpoint, with their post, “It Matters Who is Doing the Nudging.”

Then, Roland Boer offers the Marxist stance in “Nudging: Can Reform Make a Better Society?”

Finally, Kevin Vallier chimes in with “Reasonable Libertarian Worries about Nudging.”

Now, Mathewes and McRorie are back with two replies, “A Response to the Responses; or, a Note of Clarification about Nudges, Paternalism, and Agency” Part I and Part II.

The last word, at least for now:

The question before us now is not, “Should we engage in nudging on behalf of the public?” In light of the fact our lives are constantly being nudged—both by government and the very shape of the markets in which we swim every day—the question is instead, “How ought we to use the tools we have at hand to reflectively order our lives together so as to best promote the common good?” In this way, discussions over nudging and the practical impact of our public policies can bring to the fore fundamental questions about the nature of human freedom, and our common life together.


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