Why Scholars of Religion Must Investigate the Corporate Form

Chika Watanabe, Levi McLaughlin, Aike Rots, Jolyon Thomas

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Abstract

A growing body of research describes connections between religion and economic activity through the language of commodification and marketization. Although this scholarship rightly challenges the assumption that religion is or should be divorced from worldly concerns, it still relies on distinctions between religion and the economy as isolable, reified entities. Rejecting this binary approach as untenable, we argue that studying the corporate form enriches the academic study of religion by providing concrete examples of how people create institutions and how organizations turn human bodies into resources while also fostering individuals’ devotion to collective agendas. Attention to the corporate form enables us to keep money and power in view as we trace historical formations and current manifestations of religious organizations. We investigate Japanese genealogies of the corporate form to elucidate some generalizable principles about how nonprofit religions and for-profit companies alike generate missions, families, individuals, and publics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-725
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Religion
Volume88
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

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