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Title: Business as Spiritual Vocation: Evangelical Executives on Faith and Work
Authors: Smith, Bradley
Advisors: Wuthnow, Robert
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: business
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Largely confined to the disadvantaged ranks of the stratification system during much of the twentieth century, evangelicals have increasingly joined the professional elite in a variety of sectors, including corporate America. Quantitative studies of the effects of religion on executive behavior have thus far shown mixed and inconclusive effects, and those few qualitative analyses that have focused on evangelical business leaders have generally emphasized conflict between religion and business but failed adequately to explore areas of consonance. Through semi-structured interviews with the most diverse group of evangelical executives yet studied, I expand our knowledge of the ways evangelical executives understand the relationship between their faith and their work. In contrast to the above-mentioned conflict narrative, I find that these evangelical business leaders are eager and able to assert that business is a sacred institution and a worthy occupation, equipped with an appropriate rhetoric to say and evidence to demonstrate that 1) business is a God-filled domain and 2) some aspect of business contributes to some spiritual objective for some group or individual. The first criterion is supported by the oft-cited connection between virtue and profit, which helps counter the charge that business is an ethically unclean domain. Satisfying the second criterion helps informants rebut the criticism that business is less important than other types of ministry with more explicit spiritual objectives, and is easily satisfied because of the flexibility evangelical executives have in interpreting the relationship between faith and business and what it means to live a faithful life. The flexibility to understand the appropriate way to bring faith to bear in business in different ways is, in turn, facilitated by the nature and structure of both contemporary business and contemporary religion. In these evangelical business leaders and their accounts, the “spirit of capitalism,” defined by Max Weber as a positive attitude toward both work and wealth, finds ongoing embrace and new expression, with implications for our understanding of the so-called faith at work movement, evangelicalism, and the role of religion among elites.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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