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Of Iron Cages, Double Binds, Epistemological Crises, and Environmental Destruction

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The Fragmentation of the Western Worldview and Gestures Towards Another Way of Being in the World

image of Religion and Theology

The Western worldview, otherwise known as the modern worldview, has its origins in ancient Greek culture and its best known analyst and critic is Max Weber. Weber described the rationalization processes by which it came about as involving the disenchantment of the world, the disengagement of the autonomous self from the world in order to become its central agent, the objectification of the cosmos and the bureaucratization of all aspects of human life with the intention of mastery and control. This has led to what Weber called the Iron Cage in which modern human beings find themselves, unable to escape the alienation that such disengagement has brought about but equally unable to find an alternative. The exploitative nature of the western project is the basic cause of the contemporary destruction of the environment. Gregory Bateson probes more deeply into the alienating influences of the modern worldview which he says is based on its inability to understand the world holistically, which will inevitably lead to the world’s destruction. At the heart of this condition is his theory of the double bind. His advocacy for a more holistic understanding of the world resonates with postmodern critics in the fields of philosophy, anthropology, and theology, all of whom are advocating engagement, vulnerability, and participation as opposed to separation, prediction, and control.

Affiliations: 1: School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa


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