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Between Magic and Rationality : On the Limits of Reason in the Modern World (Paperback)
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Understanding the world is an ongoing human project, a dynamic and unfinished process where new forms of reason are continuously in the making. The contributors to this volume employ the ethnographic tradition of fieldwork in order to describe specific forms of reflection, action and interaction involved in the production of reason in contemporary societies. In their analyses, they focus on the particular kinds of claims that are made, the vocabularies and logics engaged, and the social authorities and institutions evoked whenever human beings all over the globe are engaged in pushing the limits of reason. The ethnographies take us to settings as different as international scientific laboratories, British spiritualist meetings, Chinese villages, Danish rehabilitation centers, and Uzbeki homes.
What happens when social work must be standardised to live up to quests for evidence of its efficacy? What makes natural scientists talk about ghosts and name a model for calculating climate change MAGICC? Why do some people prefer to discuss their emotional problems with clairvoyants rather than psychologists? Can ghosts be traumatised? And what do you do, when you experience things that you do not believe in? These are some of the questions addressed in this book, which is inspired by the observation of two apparently opposed characteristics of modern societies globally. On the one hand, the scope of established scientific reason and bureaucratic efficacy seems to be expanding. On the other hand there is a continued, perhaps even a growing, interest in spiritual and extraordinary phenomena. ‘Rational’ and ‘irrational’ modes of thought coexist and are continuously contested as definitions of reality. The magical and the rational may not only coexist, on closer inspection the two are often intertwined.
The essays here visit an impressive array of settings, including international scientific laboratories, British spiritualist meetings, Chinese villages, Danish rehabilitation centers, and Uzbeki homes, where they encounter a diverse assortment of people whose beliefs and concerns exhibit an unusual but central contemporary dichotomy: scientific reason vis-à-vis spiritual/paranormal belief. Exploring the paradoxical way these modes of thought push against reason?s boundaries, they offer a deep look at the complex ways they coexist, contest one another, and are ultimately intertwined.