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Fall 2009 Religion and Development comp questions (Specialization exam)
Answer one of the questions in the following section.
1) Some scholars argue that religion and other cultural institutions influence economic
development. Others contest this or leave religious/cultural factors out of their analysis all
together. Summarize some of the key arguments used to argue that religion/culture matters
for economic development and critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these
2) Much recent economic literature focuses on the importance of “good institutions” for longterm economic growth. The institutions economists often focus on are protection of private
property rights, rule of law, low corruption, moderate regulation of the economy, and
“efficient government” (a high level of provision of education, infrastructure and social
services for the level of taxation). This research generally ignores both religion and the
regulation of religious groups. What might a greater focus on religion contribute to this
3) There have long been studies of how religion has shaped the economic health of the world's
nations, both in more industrialized and in less developed countries. There's considerable
disagreement over both conclusions as well as the way in which religion is believed to
actually work, economically. Please spend time discussing the history of this line of research,
its conclusions, and describe the strengths and weaknesses in the conceptual ways in which
the researchers have considered religion.
Answer two of the following questions.
4) Since Weber there has been significant debate about the impact of religion on what we often
label “modernity.” Pick one “non-economic” aspect of “modernity” such as science,
democracy, mass education, or mass printing/mass media. Discuss how some scholars argue
that religion has shaped this aspect of modernity and how this relates to other theories that
either argue against the role of religion or ignore the role of religion.
5) A substantial literature looks at religion and health in North America and Europe (where
religious people are predominantly Christian and where research subjects are often wealthy
by world standards). To what extent does this research generalize to other areas of the world?
Through which mechanisms might religion influence health outcomes in the Global South
(i.e., areas outside Europe and North America where GDP per capita is relatively low)?
6) There has been considerable discussion about the concept of social capital and its utility as a
means of promoting development in developing countries. One of the major issues is
whether the promotion of social capital acts to divide populations as much as it acts to unite
them in common action. Using the appropriate literature, discuss the arguments over social
capital, paying particular attention to the role of religion in generating social capital.
7) The AIDs epidemic has had a major effect on societies in Africa. Please discuss how religion
may have influenced the spread and consequences of this disease in both positive and
negative ways. Compare the influence of religious communities with other groups and
programs. In your answer discuss both the rhetoric (what academics and activists claim about
this topic) and the empirical evidence (i.e., what careful qualitative and quantitative research
8) Given existing histories and trajectories, plot out your best assessment about the global
religious scene in 2050. Spend time empirically and conceptually defending your assessment,
as well as offering qualifications for why your assessment may not come true.
9) Addressing an international seminar on the administration of justice in Nairobi in June 1990,
the Rev. B. Njoroge Kariuki defined the socio-political context in which, in his view, the
church was called upon to play an active role in Kenya:
“The absence of other organizations of a political nature (e.g., other political
parties) than can confront the excesses of the state means that the Church is the
only nationwide body which, because of its institutional strength and its sense of
obligation for public morals and social justice, can speak and act in implicitly
political ways. The social evils of our time (e.g., corruption, tribal patronage in
employment, interference of the state with basic human freedoms, electoral
rigging, detention without trial, torture, gagging of the press etc.) are so great . . .
that Christians with any compassion cannot be indifferent to or complacent about
the effects of such evils upon human lives in Kenya.”
To what extent does Kariuki’s characterization of the Church in Kenya accurately reflect
Church-State relations in post-independence Africa? And how, if at all, have those
relations affected development?