Tag Archives: Anthropology

A Debt Crisis…5,000 Years in the Making

 

DEBT by David Graeber

by David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, 2011)

Debt is all around us. Modern economies run on consumer debt; modern nation-states, on deficit financing; international relations turn on debt.  What’s more, for the last three years, we’ve faced a global debt crisis that’s hobbled the world economy and still threatens to send it crashing into ruins.  Yet no one ever stops to ask: how did this happen? What is debt, anyway? What does it even mean to say we “owe” someone something? How did it happen that, in almost all times and places in human history, “paying your debts” has been a synonym for morality, but money-lenders have been seen as the embodiment of evil? I first began asking myself these questions as an activist, during the “drop the debt” campaigns in the early 2000s. But it was only after the financial meltdown of September 2008

Continue reading

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Author Essays

Author Response: “The Occult and the Making of American Religion”

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

Discussions about the occult tend to stir passions, which is natural because we’ve been raised to regard occult spirituality as something diabolical or just strange. I argue in Occult America that mystical and supernatural-themed religions are communities of belief and should be understood as a vital part of America’s religious development – indeed we can’t really understand our religious past (and present) without coming to terms with them.  They have exerted a remarkable influence on mainstream life.

To reply to Juan Oskar’s good question about feudalism and the European church, Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Response

The Occult and the Making of American Religion

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

In 1970, philosopher Jacob Needleman opened a new discussion about religion in America. His book The New Religions was one of the first scholarly works to consider esoteric and alternative religious movements not as oddball trends but as forces that reflected a serious and widespread search for meaning among young Americans.

A generation later, this discussion has been expanded by a broad range of mainstream religious scholars – from Catherine Albanese to Jeffrey J. Kripal to Ann Braude – who are transforming how we understand the nation’s alternative religious culture.  New Age or metaphysical movements are no longer viewed within academia as fringe oddities but as crucial aspects of our religious history. This line of study should be encouraged. Without it, we cannot fully understand the nature of America’s religious life. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Author Essays

Is Empathy Hardwired?

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

World-renown primatologist Dr. Frans De Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, draws upon decades of research and study, considering such fundamental questions as: Do we have an instinct for compassion?  Or is everything we do motivated simply by innate self-interest?

The book has received a lot of interest; most recently, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting review accompanied by compelling video and images, and the Los Angeles Times pondered the book’s central argument in light of all of the recent negative events (i.e. the War on Terror, the financial meltdown, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East) triggered by humans at the dawn of this still very new century.

You can read an excerpt here, and visit the author’s website for more information.

So what do you think of this newest chapter in the nature versus nurture debate?  Is empathy really hardwired?  If so, what does that mean for us?

4 Comments

Filed under From the Moderator