Students who have participated successfully in this course
- Have knowledge of some specific religious practices (micro-level) in their contexts, and are able to describe these in scholarly terms both for their meaning to believers and as human practices with economic, social or political consequences;
- Have knowledge of some structural and large scale scale developments (macro-level) (e.g. secularization, the role of religious institutions, the rise of capitalism as understood by Max Weber) and a basic understanding of contemporary debates on those developments so that they can describe and evaluate multiple perspectives on these structures and developments;
- Have a basic understanding of economics and of religious studies as academic disciplines and of the multiple facets involved in religions (beliefs, practices; individuals and communities; invented traditions);
- Are able to propose explanations of particular religious practices and related cultural phenomena, and discuss how these might be evaluated;
- Have understood the economic approach to questions in the social sciences, including the political economy of religions, and have provisionally developed a considered view of the potential power and limitations of economic explanatory models of religious or cultural practices.
This course is an elective, for Liberal Arts and Sciences students only; admission via the office of University College Tilburg.
For further details on the schedule of classes and readings, see the course pages in Canvas.
- Individual esssay 10 % of the final grade
- Group assignment/presentation 20% of the final grade
- Concluding exam 70 % of the final grade
Individual essay: In the second week of the course, students will have to individually submit a brief essay on religion and the study of religion.
Group assignment: Small groups of students will describe and evaluate a particular religious rule or practice, considering its meaning to believers (‘insider perspective’) and its socio-economic effects and efficacy (an ‘outsider perspective’), and present their results in class.
Concluding exam: The exam consists of open questions that invite the student to show understanding of conceptual, methodological and substantial issues raised in the course. The material to be studied for the exam will be the literature, lectures and additional literature.
Religion seems to be a private affair, while the economy is about public transactions. At least, so the understanding in contemporary secularized Europe. However, religions are more than beliefs; they shape human practices, communities, and attitudes. Those practices have economic consequences. Religious practices may be costly, and thus may seem unproductive and irrational. Believers invest time in rituals and resources in the community. In India, cows are considered holy, while people starve. Muslims may not charge interest, but how then can one build a healthy entrepreneurial society? Religious practices may appear irrational, but are they? Are the choices people make open to economic analysis, as if they are rational actors? Can religious practices be analyzed with economic models? Or are religions in opposition to economic considerations, as the bearers of moral values, of critical solidarity with the poor, of a long-term and person-transcending perspective, beyond self-interest?
In the course, there will be introductions to an economic analysis of religion and to religious studies, to religious and economic perspectives on costly rules and rituals, on discussions on the socio-economic consequences of Judaism, Protestant Christianity, and Islam, and onreligious membership and secularization.