It Isn’t Just about the Money

The Implicit Religion of Amway Corporation

Authors

  • Stefania Palmisano University of Turin
  • Nicola Pannofino University of Turn

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v16i1.27

Keywords:

Implicit Religion, Quasi-religious Organizations, Religious Conversion, Amway Corporation

Abstract

Half-way along the continuum linking religious and secular organizations can be found quasi-religious organizations, an example of hybridization characterized by the concurrence of commercial activity and symbolic practices connected with an implicitly religious dimension. Amway Corporation (a company operating in the direct-selling sector) is a representative example. This article presents the findings of ethnography carried out in Amway’s Italian context. In particular, it dwells on qualitative interviews conducted with sales operatives. From an analysis of the textual corpus, it becomes clear that belonging to the organization implies an experience of identity-transformation analogous to that of religious conversion.

References

Ashfort, B.E., S.H. Harrison, and K.G. Corley. 2008. “Identification in Organizations: An Examination of Four Fundamental Questions.” Journal of Management 34: 325–374. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0149206308316059

Bailey, E. 1997. Implicit Religion in Contemporary Society. Kampen: Kok Pharos.

Bamberg, M. 2004. “Narrative Discourse and Identities.” In Narratology beyond Literary Criticism, edited by J.C. Meister, T. Kindt, W. Schernus, and M. Stein, 213–237. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Barthes, R. 1966. “Introduction à l’Analyse Structurale des Récits.” Communications 8: 7–33. http://dx.doi.org/10.3406/comm.1966.1113

Becker, H. 2007. I trucchi del mestiere. Come fare ricerca sociale. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Beckford, J.A. 1978. “Accounting for Conversion.” The British Journal of Sociology 29: 249–262. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/589892

Bibby, R. 2007. “Do Data Matter? Reflections on the Role of Research in Identifying Implicit and Explicit Religion.” Implicit Religion 12: 251–270.

———, and M.B. Brinkerhoff. 1974. “When Proselytizing Fails: An Organizational Analysis.” Sociological Analysis 35: 189–200. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3710649

Biernacki, P. and D.Waldorf. 1981. “Snowball Sampling. Problems and Techniques of Chain Referral Sampling,” Sociological Methods and Research 10: 141–163.

Billig, M. 1999. Discutere e pensare. Milano: Raffello Cortina.

Boje, D. 1991. “Organization as Storytelling Networks: A Study of Story Performance in an Office-supply Firm.” Administrative Science Quarterly 36: 106–126. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393432

Brace-Govan, J. 2004. “Issues in Snowball Sampling: The Lawyer, the Model and Ethics.” Qualitative Research Journal 4: 52–60.

Bromley, D.G. 1995. “Quasi-religious Corporations: the Reintegration of Capitalism and Religion.” In Religion and the Transformations of Capitalism. Comparative Approaches, edited by R. Roberts, 135–160. London: Routledge. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203210680_chapter_7

———. 1997. “Transformative Movements and Quasi-Religious Corporations: The Case of Amway.” In Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspect of Organization, edited by N.J. Demerath, P. Dobkin Hall, T. Schmitt, and R.H. Williams, 349–363. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

——— and B.C. Busching. 1988. “Understanding the Structure of Contractual and Covenantal Social Relations: Implications for the Sociology of Religion.” Sociological Analysis 49: 15–32. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3711141

——— and A. Shupe. 1990. “Rebottling the Elixir: The Gospel of Prosperity in America’s Religioeconomic Corporations.” In In Gods we Trust, edited by T. Robbins and D. Anthony, 233–254. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.

Burke, K. 1969. A Grammar of Motive. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cardano, M. 2011. La Ricerca Qualitative. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Chagnon, R. 1988. Les Conversions aux Nouvelles Religions. Montréal: Fides.

Czarniawska, B. 2000. Narrare L’Organizzazione. La Costruzione dell’Identità Istituzionale. Torino: Comunità.

Davies, B. and R. Harré. 1990. “Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20: 44–63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5914.1990.tb00174.x

Demerath, N.J. 2000. “The Varieties of Sacred Experience: Finding the Sacred in a Secular Grove.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39: 1–11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0021-8294.00001

Douglas, M. 1987. How Institutions Think. London: Routledge.

Dutton, J. E., J.M. Dukerich and C.V. Harquail. 1994. “Organisational Images and Member Identification.” Administrative Science Quarterly 39: 239–263. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393235

Evans, M.T. 2003. “The Sacred: Differentiating, Clarifying and Extended Concepts.” Review of Religious Research 45: 32–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3512498

Giovannini, R and D. Orecchio. 2002. Piramide d’oro. Realtà e miti del multilevel marketing. Rome: Avverbi.

Goffman, E. 2001. Frame Analysis. L’organizzazione dell’Esperienza. Rome: Armando.

Greil, A.L. 1993. “Explorations along the Sacred Frontier: Notes on Para-religions, Quasi-religions, and Other Boundary Phenomena.” In The Handbook of Cults and Sects in America, edited by D.G. Bromley, and J. K. Hadden, 153–172. Greenwich: JAI Press.

——— and T. Robbins. 1994. Between Sacred and Secular: Research and Theory on Quasi-Religion. Greenwich: JAI Press.

——— and D.R. Rudy. 1984. “Social Cocoons: Encapsulation and Identity Transformation Organizations.” Sociological Inquiry 54: 260–278. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-682X.1984.tb00060.x

Groß, C. 2010. “Spiritual Cleansing: A Case Study on how Spirituality Can Be Mis/used by a Company.” Management Review 21: 60–81.

Hervieu-Léger, D. 2003. Il pellegrino e il convertito. La religione in movimento. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Hunt, S. J. 2003. Alternative Religions: A Sociological Introduction. London: Ashgate.

James, W. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. London: Longmans. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10004-000

Jones, K.A. 2011. Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Knoblauch, H. 2005. “Focused Ethnography,” Forum. Qualitative Social Research 6.

Linde, C. 2000. “The Acquisition of a Speaker by a Story: How History Becomes Memory and Identity.” Ethos 28: 608–632. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/eth.2000.28.4.608

———. 2003. “Narrative in Institutions.” In The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, edited by D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen and H. Hamilton, 518–535. Oxford: Blackwell.

Lofland, J. and R. Stark. 1965. “Becoming a World-saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective.” American Sociological Review 30: 862–875. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2090965

Luckmann, T. 1990. “Shrinking Transcendence, Expanding Religion?” Sociology of Religion 51: 127–138.

Martin, J., M. S. Feldman, M.J. Hatch and S.B. Sitkin. 1983. “The Uniqueness Paradox in Organizational Stories.” Administrative Science Quarterly 28: 438–453. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2392251

Mills, C.W. 1940. “Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motive.” American Sociological Review 5: 904–913. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2084524

Nesti, A. 1985. Il religioso implicito. Rome: Ianua.

Perelman C. and L. Olbrecths-Tyteca. 1958. Traité de l”argumentation. La nouvelle rhètorique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Piette, A. 1997. “Hibridité, Circulation, Transmission. Réflexions autour des Religiosities Séculières.” Recherches Sociologiques 3: 113–122.

Poulton, M. S. 2005. “Organizational Storytelling, Ethics and Morality: How Stories Frame Limits of Behavior in Organizations.” Electronic Journal of Business, Ethics and Organization Studies 10.

Pratt, M.G. 2000. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent: Managing Identification among Amway Distributors.” Administrative Science Quarterly 45: 456–493. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2667106

Rabatel, A. 2008. Figures et point de vue. Langue française 160.

Rambo, L.R. and C.E. Farhadian. 1999. “Converting: Stages of Religious Change.” In Religious Conversion. Contemporary Practices and Controversies, edited by C. Lamb and M. D. Bryant, 23–24. New York: Cassel.

Schellens, P.J. and M.de Jong. 2004. “Argumentation Schemes in Persuasive Brochures.” Argumentation 18: 295–323. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:ARGU.0000046707.68172.35

Shockley, K. 2006. “On Participation and Membership in Discursive Practices.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 36: 67–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0048393105284181

Snow, D. and R. Machalek. 1983. “The Convert as a Social Type.” Sociological Theory 1: 259–289. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/202053

———. 1984. “The Sociology of Conversion,” Annual Review of Sociology 10: 167–190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.so.10.080184.001123

Speelman, G. 2006. “Continuity and Discontinuity in Conversion Stories.” Exchange 35: 304–335. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/157254306777814409

Torry, M. 2005. Managing God’s Business: Religious and Faith-based Organizations and their Management. Ashgate: Aldershot.

Von Moos, P. 2005. Entre histoire et littérature. Communication et culture au Moyen Age. Firenze: Edizioni del Galluzzo.

Winchester, D. 2008. “Embodying the Faith: Religious Practice and the Making of a Muslim Moral Habitus.” Social Forces 86: 1753–1780. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/sof.0.0038

Published

2013-04-19

How to Cite

Palmisano, S., & Pannofino, N. (2013). It Isn’t Just about the Money: The Implicit Religion of Amway Corporation. Implicit Religion, 16(1), 27–46. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v16i1.27

Issue

Section

Articles