Why Scholars of Religion Must Investigate the Corporate Form: Roundtable with the authors of the JAAR article: Levi McLaughlin, Aike P. Rots, Jolyon Baraka Thomas, and Chika Watanabe.
Abstract: A growing body of research describes connections between religion and economic activity through the language of commodification and marketization. Although this scholarship rightly challenges the assumption that religion is or should be divorced from worldly concerns, it still relies on distinctions between religion and the economy as isolable, reified entities. Rejecting this binary approach as untenable, we argue that studying the corporate form enriches the academic study of religion by providing concrete examples of how people create institutions and how organizations turn human bodies into resources while also fostering individuals’ devotion to collective agendas. Attention to the corporate form enables us to keep money and power in view as we trace historical formations and current manifestations of religious organizations. We investigate Japanese genealogies of the corporate form to elucidate some generalizable principles for how nonprofit religions and for-profit companies alike generate missions, families, individuals, and publics.
Levi McLaughlin, Aike P Rots, Jolyon Baraka Thomas, Chika Watanabe, “Why Scholars of Religion Must Investigate the Corporate Form,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, September 2020, Vol. 88, No. 3, pp. 693–725 doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfaa041