Since Max Weber’s ground-breaking study, The Protestant Ethic, and the Spirit of Capitalism
, it has become something of a scholarly trope to treat the rise of secular modernity and the formation of Quakerism as going readily together. In an effort to dismantle this habitual interpretation of Quaker history, this article posits the existence of an embryonic ‘enchanted’ Quakerism, which actively resisted the nascent secularity of early modernity. Drawing extensively on the gift-theory of Marcel Mauss, it will be shown that first-generation Quakerism was characterised by a magical conception of the body, nature, and society. Such a posture, in its radical anachronism, sought to undermine both Cartesian science and the emerging discipline of political economy. In place of a cosmology of hierarchy and commodification, early Quakers argued for a sweeping theology of gift, which imbued the whole of experience with divine activity. While secularity was busily confining the magical and the miraculous to the realm of innermost subjectivity, the Quakerism of the 1650s and 60s was characterised by a stubborn refusal to accept such a process of religious privatisation. In contrast, early Quaker spirituality postulated the continual interaction of Biblical realities with contemporary natural and social orders.
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