Journal Article

The affluent society and its religious consequences: an empirical investigation of 20 European countries

Jochen Hirschle

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 9, issue 2, pages 261-285
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwq025
The affluent society and its religious consequences: an empirical investigation of 20 European countries

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  • Moral Philosophy
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This paper offers an alternative account of the frequently observed association between gross domestic product growth and a decline in traditional church attendance. The approach follows Durkheim's focus on the social functions of religion. It is hypothesized that economic prosperity leads to an exchange of the mediators of social activities, rather than to an increase in existential security or rationalization: With income development individuals increasingly engage in consumption-related practices. In turn, traditional religious activities, contexts and symbols lose their significance as mediators for social action. This hypothesis is tested, in competition with the ‘updated secularization hypothesis’ of Norris and Inglehart, via multilevel analyses. Data are drawn from the European Social Survey and the Eurobarometer, relying on micro and macro units on 82 (NUTS1) regions from 20 European countries. In accordance with the consumption hypothesis, results indicate that increases in gross domestic product lead to religious decline primarily by supplanting the dominant modes of social action.

Keywords: religion; economic growth; consumers; modernization; Europe; regions; M31 marketing; O11 macroeconomic analyses of economic development; Z12 religion

Journal Article.  9006 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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