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Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition

4.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  736 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme—but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more c ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by EVOLVER EDITIONS (first published January 2011)
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Apr 12, 2015 Miles rated it it was ok
Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics is a radical book penned with a lot of passion and the best of intentions. This treatise on alternative economics serves up some very worthy ideas that are compromised by a handful of the author’s less rigorous tendencies and intellectually insupportable positions. As a whole, the book had a decidedly divisive effect on my psyche.

Even for someone reticent to call anything “sacred,” there is a lot to love about Sacred Economics. Eisenstein is one of many earl
Bill O'driscoll
Jan 02, 2012 Bill O'driscoll rated it really liked it
Terrific, even visionary argument that the way we think about economics, and specifically about money, is fundamentally flawed, thus inevitably leading us to bad decisions, bad living and an increasingly damaged planet. Eisenstein traces much of the problem to interest, and the dilemma that "wealth" -- that is, money, the only kind of wealth we recognize -- can "grow" even while it is idle, yet our true wealth that resides in the land, air and water is finite. This all leads us to an artificial ...more
Elmaneca Cabrera
May 12, 2012 Elmaneca Cabrera rated it it was amazing
I hope with great earnest that this vision becomes reality.
Mar 10, 2012 Liz rated it it was ok
Einsenstein presents new ideas about possible economic futures -- new to me anyway. The move away from the money economy itself isn't new. Nor is the idea to create a new money system -- most students of history could tell you this and then recite a list of examples as long as my arm (and written in tiny handwriting).

I give this two stars because while the book itself is easy to read and understand, it doesn't delve into practical realities -- we will still have jobs people don't want to do and
Apr 28, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely love this piece: while the end result is highly idealistic, the ideas and approach within are nevertheless applicable on a local scale today and should be strived towards. Eisenstein is remarkable in his approach to the topic of economics and optimistic in his view of what we could become as a people. By stripping back all of history to come to a general understanding about the generative nature of economics and then rebuilding it in a way that exemplifies the possibilities and nec ...more
Apr 09, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
I was first introduced to the work of Charles Eisenstein through the website Reality Sandwich, brainchild of Daniel Pinchbeck. In fact, I think the passage I read was an excerpt from this book! The entirety of Sacred Economics is hosted in bits and pieces on Reality Sandwich, so if this piques your interest you can check it out at no charge. Following that introduction, I read Eisenstein's book "The Yoga of Eating" which I really enjoyed, and helped me make the decision to read Sacred Economics. ...more
Nick Stibbs
Jul 21, 2012 Nick Stibbs rated it really liked it
Eisenstein is a contemporary philosopher, who has penned several tomes - after The Yoga of Eating and The Ascent of Humanity, this is his latest book, addressing economic issues. He upholds a spiritual perspective, albeit one which locates spirituality in the heart of matter, expressed through our lives, bodies and relationships on and with the earth. Seeing the body as an expression of soul and not in a dualistic opposition, he continues a tradition going back through Blake, the Hebrew traditio ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Eileen rated it it was amazing
Charles and I wrote our books concurrently, without awareness that we were both exploring the same concepts. What a pleasure it was to discover a kindred spirit, and to consciously work with Charles to "build a field" of awareness around these ideas. Beautiful book; beautiful man. I highly recommend this one!
Leland Beaumont
Dec 15, 2013 Leland Beaumont rated it it was amazing
Author Charles Eisenstein begins this bold and well written book examining why innovation, labor saving devices, and all of the earth's bounty fail to deliver prosperity to most of the people. “After centuries of technological advances, why do we find ourselves working just as much as ever?” he asks, before observing: “For centuries, futurists have predicted an imminent age of leisure. Why has it never happened? The reason is that, at every opportunity, we have chosen to produce more rather than ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
In the opposite of Mr. Eisenstein's writing style, I will keep this succinct. Largely a Buddhist vision of money and exchange, Sacred Economics does offer some interesting and hugely important insights into the possible future of the global economic system. An important read for the chapters on negative interest and the backing of money with the things we wish to preserve.
Aug 30, 2011 Harlan rated it it was amazing
Charles is publishing it serially at the webmagazine Reality Sandwich, you can read it as it comes out weekly or so here:

So far, it's beautiful. I can't imagine it getting less so as it goes on.
Burl Hall
Oct 24, 2015 Burl Hall rated it it was amazing
I have read two of Eisenstein's books, this one and "A Most Beautiful World." Eisenstein is one o the leaders for the dawning of humanity in moving from the Genesis 2 curse in which we are to toil and to be enslaved by the Man. The Man in the sense I am using it entails corporations, government, etc that comprise top-down governance. Eisenstein's work fosters the evolution of the human being into a creature that is bottom-up more so than top-down. Thus, the curse of Genesis, "And the Man shall r ...more
I’m halfway through Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition, and I couldn’t wait to share a little of what it’s about. This is one of the few books I think should be required reading for every college student. Given the economic crisis we have been facing for well over two centuries, it is highly important that we stop, yes stop, and really think about the origins, purpose, and impact of the monetary system on our lives, and indeed the plant.

Mark Findlater
There is no question Eisenstein is smart but his writing is immature and his eulogy is aimed hard at the converted and by definition they need no conversion.

The history of money was fascinating, the economics simple, the ideas beautiful, the potential infinite, Eisenstein's dreams fantastical and the research, proof points and hard science, lacking.

It would be easy to dismiss the ideas as impossible, but if there is one great takeaway it is that through a little introspection you will realise ho
Stephanie Hallmark
Jan 13, 2016 Stephanie Hallmark rated it really liked it
I bought this book at one of his lectures...where I was actually blown away. Listening to him it was like someone had taken every really important thread I had been following for the last twenty years and woven them together into a coherent narrative. I suppose it is the application of buddhism to political economy..and doubtless others have said more interesting things than I can come up with here, but definitely recommended reading.
Jan 16, 2015 Megan rated it it was amazing
This book is one of my top recent reads. When I first started it, I set it aside after reading the first chapter or the intro thinking it might not be new information. Then I picked it up and started reading in the middle and got really fascinated by his ideas (then went back and read the first half). I love his take on our current money system, gift economies, and his attitude that changes to our money system are already happening. I feel super inspired by his ideas of adopting a negative inter ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Massimiliano rated it did not like it
In his overly long, unbearably redundant book, Eisenstein drowns a few valid concepts - namely, the importance of community, a reversal of pervasive commodification, and a restoration of our connection with the goods and services we buy - in a lukewarm broth of lazy, unscientific ideas. Through a blatantly narcissistic exposition, Eisenstein preaches that modernity = depravity, that the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been repeatedly violated by technologies confiscated by occult powers, and th ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!!
Recommended to Jason by: Sarah Linneken
Brilliant!! This book explores the history of money and gifts in society. It underscores how money is devouring the Commons (which used to be free for everyone) and how our system of usury is perpetuating infinite debt which will result in the complete destruction of the Commons, unless we change. Capitalism is a system based on infinite growth in a finite system--this means our current economic system is UNSUSTAINABLE!! Read this book to learn about other possibilities, you won't be sorry and I ...more
Dave Burns
May 21, 2016 Dave Burns rated it did not like it
Can you find the error in this quote from Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein?

Imagine what would happen if, all of a sudden, a magical technology were found that could double the productivity of every worker. Now the same amount of goods is available with half the labor. If (as in a steady-state or degrowth economy) demand does not increase, then half the workers are now superfluous. To stay competitive, firms must fire half their workers, make them part-time, or pay them less. Aggregate wag
Jun 10, 2014 Shuhui rated it really liked it
It is a beautiful book about transforming the basis of our economic system from self-interest to giving. It's very philosophical and poetic, yet at the same time it is clear that the author has done research about economics and the history of money.
However, at times he strikes me as a romantic. He talks about how hunter-gatherers enjoy marvelous health, compared with our own health. He seems to forget that today we are able to live long enough to have diseases like Parkinson’s or cancer, wherea
Jul 04, 2015 Vishnu rated it it was amazing
A very timely book for me. I agree with many reviews that the book runs long and can be repetitive. At the same time, it conclusively demonstrated to me that (1) our current economic model based on non-stop growth is insanely unsustainable, (2) that other kinds of economic systems were possible, and (3) that over-monetizing our lives can have unfortunately effects on our personal and spiritual lives.

Given how difficult systemic change is, maybe the most profound lessons for me dealt with the pe
Freja Friborg
This book was really amazing for me to read, it put words on so many of the feelings that I have had through time but had difficult to explain! And it gives and amazing positive and possible future ahead for our world and economic system! A clear down to earth explanation of what we can do! I would recommend everyone to read this book and be inspired!
William Crosby
Dec 05, 2014 William Crosby rated it it was amazing
From the start, the author tries to embody his philosophy of the gift economy by making this book available as a gift via a Creative Commons copyright.

And, in doing so, he is showing that this is one of many examples in the book of how our economy and culture is already changing to what he considers to be his more ideal economic system.

Essentially this is a discussion of money and gifting and the sacred and profane. He starts with what he perceives as the problems with our current system and goe
Feb 09, 2014 Oliver rated it really liked it
If you're like me, you entered the "real world" and looked around baffled. Why do we all live this way? Working jobs we don't like, to buy crap we don't need... You feel disconnected from your neighbors, from your health, from nature, or from yourself even. Your youthful passions and love for life have been stiffled by the need to get a job, to pay your student loans, to save for later, to buy a house, but in your heart, you don't trust that story. Another world must be possible. It's from that ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Cyndie rated it liked it
Recommended to Cyndie by: Stevo Johnson
Shelves: own, non-fiction
At its core a hopeful, albeit slightly idealistic book. Dense, but filled with important insights our people and our planet need.

My heart ached several times when the author was discussing the importance of gifts and how our current economic system has stripped our exchange of resources of their important relationship building potential. When we can buy anything we need, find all our information online, what happens to the bonds that are created by asking others for something we need that they
Emily Mellow
Well... I WANTED to like this book. I tried reading it online and couldn't get into it. I was inspired by a book group to try again, so I got it from the library and still, it is just not written in a way that works for me. Sad, because I love his ideas and have really enjoyed watching his videos.
Steve Malins
Jan 09, 2014 Steve Malins is currently reading it
Shelves: academic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Claudia Hays
Jan 03, 2013 Claudia Hays rated it really liked it
although too big picture, optimistic about his particular theory, and a bit slow in the beginning - I do agree with considerable portions of his outlook on sharing/gifting styles of economy.
May 30, 2015 MR rated it really liked it
His philosophies and ideas about money, economics, greed, community, etc, resonated with me absolutely, but I think it falls a little flat in the practical solutions department.
Andrew Long
Oct 04, 2011 Andrew Long rated it it was amazing
A towering, shattering, monumental work of scholarly synthesis. A deeply peaceful work of contemplation. Impractical and brilliant. Obvious.
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Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution. His writings on the web magazine Reality Sandwich have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. Writing in Ode magazine's "25 Intelligent Optimists" issue, Da ...more
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“When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce, including the basis of human life and happiness. Such is the life of the slave—one whose actions are compelled by threat to survival. Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time.” 29 likes
“When we must pay the true price for the depletion of nature’s gifts, materials will become more precious to us, and economic logic will reinforce, and not contradict, our heart’s desire to treat the world with reverence and, when we receive nature’s gifts, to use them well.” 20 likes
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