Prophets and Profits

On Economies of Economic Goods in Economies of Salvation


  • Kevin J. Wanner Western Michigan University



Pierre Bourdieu, Economies of symbolic goods, Christianity, Protestantism


Pierre Bourdieu suggested that religion is an example of what he called an "economy of symbolic goods," a field of social practice governed by the logic of disinterestedness, in which successful participants must disavow self-interest and the pursuit of economic goods and profits. Bourdieu argued that within such economies, symbolic as well as economic profits can only be accrued through such strategies as refusals to calculate, taboos against making costs and values explicit, and choreographing of exchanges to make them appear discontinuous and gratuitous. This essay uses the New Testament writings of Paul and Protestant texts by the German Reformer Martin Luther and American Presbyterian William Speer, in each of which economic interests are openly expressed and economic strategies and values promoted, to suggest modifications to Bourdieu's understanding of how economies of symbolic goods and economies of economic goods are mutually defined and interrelate.

Author Biography

Kevin J. Wanner, Western Michigan University

Kevin Wanner is Associate Professor of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University, United States.


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How to Cite

Wanner, K. (2012). Prophets and Profits: On Economies of Economic Goods in Economies of Salvation. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41(1), 20–25.