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

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,305 ratings  ·  177 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
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Dec 03, 2014 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 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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I hope with great earnest that this vision becomes reality.
Jan 28, 2012 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
Nick Stibbs
Apr 03, 2012 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
Feb 25, 2013 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 15, 2014 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
Jun 19, 2012 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.
Jul 10, 2013 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 02, 2013 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
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Money is like the taboo topic of our time. Seems like so much of how we define ourselves and others are wrapped up in how much we're worth materially. I've always been fascinated with our shared magical belief that green pieces of paper have worth and even stranger today, that taps from computers add and subtract numbers to bank accounts. Eisenstein leads us through a brief history of economics and how we reached this point in time. He's not scolding or nostalgic for a return to an earlier time. ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
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
Divish Gupta
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Certainly the most profound book I have ever read. You can disagree with what he says, but he will compel you to think and introspect deeply. A must read for those who feel something is wrong with the mainstream idea of development.

Charles fundamentally believes that we are born into gratitude and are basic desire is to give. This is contrary to the mainstream belief that we are motivated by self-interest. He explains in detail what is wrong with the existing systems and how money is designed to
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 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.
Aug 30, 2011 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.
Chelsea Lawson
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What is, or what do we want our purpose to be on this earth? Does money, as the greatest tool that we have created to organize human activity, help to serve this purpose? If not, how can we rewrite the rules of money to better reflect our objectives? And how do we hasten and ease the transition to those new rules?

These are the questions Eisenstein covers in Sacred Economics, on both a societal and individual scale. In short, our purpose is to leave the world a more beautiful place than we entere
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book kind of blew my mind. I picked it up because a Goodreads friend rated it highly, and I became curious -- How could economics be sacred? When I got the book, I was quite intimidated. It looked so big and heavy, and such a "heavy" topic. I didn't think I would get through it, but, surprisingly, I did. Not that I read every page, but I did read enough that I surprised myself how much I did read.

And, this is one of those books that really have the ability to change how you look at somethin
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and helpful. I've really struggled with the cognitive dissonance of being a leftist finance nerd - many of the thoughts here had me saying "RIGHT. THAT'S what I've been trying to figure out."

Many things here to think about. I blitzed through it but I'm going to have to re-read many times, and discuss. One of the concepts that hit me hard was professional services in a gift economy presenting an invoice of their costs, and allowing the service consumer to write in their own value add
Brian Griffith
I want to give Eisenstein great marks for his courage to dream and his massive determination to figure out a better kind of economy. I think his vision of a gift-based, community-rich, environmentally restorative, human-potential driven future is basically what humanity needs. I even believe that these dreams will be realized to some extent in the decades to come, and I wish him every success. But the systemic changes in how money should work seem highly abstract. I couldn't see how they would r ...more
Jayant Nahata
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was an experience in itself. I always found something odd in our economic structure with questions in my mind popping up - like ''why does GDP not take into account home-makers job'' or ''Isn't economic structure of today hastening environmental destruction'', ''isn't environment vs economy a fundamental contradiction''. This book touches on so many aspects I couldn't encounter, in my 25 years of education in the best of institutes and with
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.

This boo
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading Charles Eisenstein's book is, at times, like listening to a really good sermon: uplifting, idealistic, inspiring. How weird that these feelings can be evoked by a tome about economics! Also, Eisenstein's writing alternates between the wildly fanciful and the decidedly technical and complex aspects of economics... he is like an unprecedented hybrid of a really smart economist and an evangelical priest.

This book examines the flaws of our current Usury monetary system--the most egregious p
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very strong effort, one of those books which I feel is almost unfair to review in any sort of detail without allowing the author’s full arguments to speak for themselves. Thus I’ll speak more briefly than I’m tempted to. Let it be an indication of how much I found to like in this book that my typed-up quotes to remember from its pages comprise 13,000 words in a word document.

Eisenberg’s basic idea is that the type of economy which has allowed the history of mankind to grow to this point is not
Burl Hall
Oct 24, 2015 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
Jul 13, 2014 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
Jan 06, 2015 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
Gimo Zangana
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read with a fresh perspective. This book really opened my mind to the separation between man and nature and how the resulting social mindset influences the economic system today. Charles focuses on this economic aspect, which is digestible to people without any economic knowledge, and introduces alternative systems to combat the issues we face today.
Highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the origins of society, economics and alternatives.
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Charles Eisenstein has some really irritating New-Agey ways of explaining things at times (instead of condemning the atrocities of the past he compares them to a childish phase necessary for our growth into adulthood as a species, which is pretty insane in my opinion) and tends to repeat himself more than necessary but overall this is a pretty good summary of the alternative economic ideas we should all be considering. So far I haven't found any others that do a better job of it.
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!
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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.” 39 likes
“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
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the new neighbor.
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information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communications;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These times are times of fast foods;
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

--authorship unknown
from Sacred Economics”
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