Ec 1450: Religion and Political Economy




The study of the political economy of religion is grounded in two intellectual strands of thought developed in economics and sociology. The economic approach views religious competition and church-state relations as market phenomena. The absence of state religion allows for competition, thereby creating an environment for a plurality of religious faiths in society.The continual subdividing of religion into sects ensures an open and competitive market whereby no one single religion dominates.The sociological approach focuses on religious beliefs and activities as rational choices as well as cultural phenomena.Religious beliefs are a part of cultural traits, values, and organizations which contribute to economic outcomes. As in commercial activity, people respond to religious costs and benefits in a predictable, observable manner.  Religious beliefs that promote hard work, thrift, and honesty can be found across the world’s major religions.  The key question is: How does a society promote these values and in what circumstances does it, intentionally or unintentionally, discard them?  People choose a religion (the theory of sects) and the degree to which they participate and believe (if at all).  In this course we discuss a wide range of topics--religious competition, secularization (and its varieties), pluralism and tolerance, the structure of religious organizations, religion and individual behavior—that highlight the contributions and areas of further research in the field of political economy of religion.