Charisma in the Marketplace: The Transformative Role of Prosperity Religions in Southeast Asia’s Economic Modernization

By Rebecca Sargent.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Religion has been described as an opiate, a reversion to tradition, and a method of coping with modern life. Drawing on case studies of contemporary prosperity-based religious movements in Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines and Vietnam, this paper shows that religion can play a dynamic and facilitative role in contemporary social and material relations. Writers who address the social and economic upheavals of the late modernity tend to describe religion as a passive, static, traditional, even nostalgic refuge from modern demands, and as a deliberate turn away from the increasing “individualization” of responsibility for lifestyle choices and economic circumstances. This paper will show that emerging religious forms and practices in South East Asia can be characterized as modern institutions which actually constitute personal ethics of responsibility, transparency, individual choice, and autonomy. These ethics, in turn, enable individuals to participate more fully in modern market practices.

Keywords: Individualization, Religion, Southeast Asia, Neoliberalism

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.47-58. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 727.876KB).

Rebecca Sargent

Graduate Student, Department of Political Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada