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Nature Technology and the Sacred

ISBN: 978-0-631-23604-7
240 pages
January 2005, Wiley-Blackwell
Nature Technology and the Sacred (063123604X) cover image
In a critical reinterpretation of the idea of the ‘disenchantment of nature’, this provocative and timely book argues that contemporary ideas and practices concerning nature and technology remain closely bound up with religious ways of thinking and acting. Using examples from North America, Europe and elsewhere, many derived from original research, it reinterprets a range of ‘secular’ phenomena in terms of their conditioning by a complex series of transformations of the sacred in Western history. The contemporary practices of environmental politics, technological risk behaviour, alternative medicine, vegetarianism and ethical consumption take on new significance as sites of struggle between different sacral orderings.



Nature, Technology and the Sacred introduces a radically new direction for today’s critical discourse concerning nature and technology, one that reinstates it as a moment within the ongoing religious history of the West.

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Preface.

Acknowledgements.

PART 1 -
MODERNITY, NATURE AND THE SACRED.

1. The disenchantment of the world.

2. Nature, secularization and the transformation of the sacred.

PART 2 -
NATURE AND TECHNOLOGY.

3. Nature, science and the death of Pan.

4. Modern technology and the sacred.

PART 3 -
THE BODY AND ITS ENVIRONMENT.

5. The body, healing and the sacred.

6. The birth of 'the environment'.

PART 4 -
AGAINST THE TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITION.

7. The politicization of nature.

8. Nature, virtue and everyday life.

9. Nature and public speech.

PART 5 -
THE FUTURE OF THE SACRED.

10. The global sacred.

11. Nature, technology and the sacred: a postscript.

Notes.

References.

Index
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Bronislaw Szerszynski is Lecturer in Environment and Culture at the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and the Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy at Lancaster University. He is the co-editor of Nature Performed: Environment, Culture and Performance (Blackwell, 2003), Re-Ordering Nature: Theology, Society and the New Genetics (2003) and Risk, Environment and Modernity: Towards a New Ecology (1996).
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  • Argues that contemporary ideas and practices concerning nature and technology are radically conditioned by the religious history of the West




  • Explores how relations with nature and technology remain closely bound up with religious ways of thinking and acting



  • Shows how the history of religion and our practical and theoretical relationship with nature cannot be separated



  • Uses examples from North America, Europe and elsewhere, many derived from original research



  • Explores a range of contemporary cultural phenomena, such as environmental politics, technological risk behaviour, alternative medicine, vegetarianism and ethical consumption, as sites of struggle between different sacral orderings



  • Points towards a new framing for today's critical discourse concerning nature and technology, as a moment within the religious history of the West.
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"With this book Szerszynski makes a highly original contribution to European social theory of the politics of nature and reflexive modernization. Paddling hard against the main currents of thought in this area, he doggedly follows his hunch - that the contemporary politicization of nature and technology is by no means a sign of our final departure from the horizon of religion and the sacred. The scholarly yet engaging way in which he develops his case will mean that this book will become an obligatory reference point for those wishing to locate the contemporary debates about how we should live with technology and nature within the longer scope of Western history." Ulrich Beck, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich

"Szerszynski’s meticulously researched and well-argued book comprehensively demolishes the notion that monotheism disenchanted the natural world … This book will stand for many years to come as the authoritative treatment of a topic which in turn stands at the very centre of the entire ecological debate." John Milbank, University of Nottingham


"Szerszynski draws on several centuries of Western religious and philosophical thought to rebut the idea that modernity’s love affair with technology has taken the sacred out of nature. His provocative, wide-ranging study will broaden the horizons of environmental scholarship as well as science and technology studies." Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University

"In this impressive, wide-ranging new volume, Bronislaw Szerszynski provides a sophisticated historic overview of the development of technology from ancient times to the present. [...] This book is a highly refined and intelligent work and whether its conclusions are met with enthusiasm or sceptical disagreement, it demands and deserves significant attention." Journal of Contemporary Religion

Nature, Technology and the Sacred takes our ability to study implicit religion to a new and deeper level … We can only anticipate that much more will come from this formidable scholar.”
Implicit Religion

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