Does religion matter for economic success? Or, rather, does economic success change the salience of religion? For example, Max Weber has argued that a “Protestant Work Ethic” influenced economic success; Kuran (2011) argued that Islamic law hindered economic development, while many others have contested their claims. This course will go beyond Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic thesis and look at examples from different religious contexts in the 19th and 20th centuries. We will consider the scholarly debate from different angles, drawing upon sociological, economic and historical literature and will use historical cases to analyze the interdependence of religion and economics. How did religion shape economic institutions in Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist societies? How can outliers, such as the Amish in Pennsylvania, the Hassidic Jews in New York or the Hutterites in the Dakotas, sustain their communities in a modern-day market economy? Finally, we will draw conclusions from historical evidence. How can we capture “religion” empirically? Under which circumstances does religion promote or hinder economic development? Has the “spirit of Capitalism” developed into a universal phenomenon transcending religious denominations? Or is the perception of economic success and failure connected to religious affiliation, in the past and today?
An component of the seminar is an ungraded presentation.
The number of participants if limited to 25 (12 Economic Department + 13 History Department). Seminars like this one are based on the exchange of ideas and your participation is important in order to facilitate a lively discussion in class. You are therefore encouraged to comment frequently on the readings and to ask questions at any time. Remember that your participation is assessed according to your willingness to ask and comment critically.
Presentation: Please choose one topic from the list (the date of our first session). You will be assigned a specific theme which fits the broader topic you have chosen within the first two weeks of the seminar. We will provide some basic reading for each topic. The readings listed below are compulsory for each participant. The presentation should be supported by appropriate visual aids and a bibliography containing all the literature you have drawn upon.
Paper: You will write a seminar paper based on your presentation, including results of the class discussion. The paper should be handed in by August 15, 2020. The paper should be about 20 pages in length and written to a scientific standard. This implies: reading widely around the topic, writing clearly and concisely, evaluating objectively and citing correctly.
Rules of the Game:
- Bear in mind that regular attendance is highly recommended.
- Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. Always reference another author’s material accurately.
Since the seminar language is English, all material handed in, including the presentation and the paper, should be in English.
20. April 2020: Introduction: What is Religion? Concepts and Definitions
27. April 2020: Max Weber and his Critics (Subtopic 1 and 2)
04. May 2020: Economic Concepts and Empirical Measurement (Subtopic 3 and 4)
11. May 2020: Christianity (Subtopic 5 and 6)
18. May 2020: Islam/Judaism (Subtopic 7 and 8)
25. May 2020: Buddhism/Hinduism (Subtopic 9 and 10)
01. June 2020: No seminar
08. June 2020: Case study 1: Protestants in 19th Germany (Subtopics 11 and 12)
15. June 2020: Case study 2: Maghribi Traders (Subtopics 13 and 14)
22. June 2020: Case study 3: Interest Rates in Islam and Christianity Anabaptists (Subtopics 15 and 16)
29. June 2020: Case study 4: Food in India (Subtopic 17 and 18)
06. July 2020: Case study 5: Pentecostal Cities in Africa (Subtopics 19 and 20)
13. July 2020: Religion in a Global Economy (Topic 21)
Please register via AGNES by February 1 to April 14, 2020.