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25 July 2013

Tent Revivals and Business Goals

This Weberian-ish hypothesis popped into my head the other day: the history of constant revival in American evangelicalism is paralleled in the demand for continuous improvement in capitalism. Let me explain a bit. Proto-evangelicalism in the American colonies was largely a reaction against the elitist and exclusive institutional churches with the most power at the time. Itinerant preachers like George Whitefield challenged the established churches by holding revival meetings. As it turns out, though, one revival was never enough. To this day in the rural South, revivals happen repeatedly and quite regularly. Complacency in faith amounts to a lapse in faith. In contemporary capitalism, we see a similar pattern: Stable profits and productivity might as well be loss and decline. (Note here that the point is constantly increasing profits. It's not enough to make more money than you spend; you need to make more profit this quarter than you did last quarter. It's difficult to understand mathematically how this could ever be sustainable.) I think these cultures at least have to be mutually reinforcing. I'm hesitant to draw a causal arrow, however.

1 comment:

  1. You might be interested in Robert Gordon's work on the slowing of growth.