Spiritual Capital and Religious Evolution: Buddhist Values and Transactions in Historical and Contemporary Perspective

Jørn Borup


This article analyzes the historical and contemporary relations between Buddhism, economy, and materiality. It shows how, on the one hand, the sangha has been a preconditioning catalyst for and continuous generator of economic development, while, on the other hand, economic transactions and wealth generation have been preconditioning contexts for the development and maintenance of the Buddhist sangha. This is argued for by referring to two modes of economic transactions: a “secular economy,” a byproduct of the sangha’s engagement with the secular world, and a “religious economy,” based on economic transactions related to Buddhist ideas, practices, objects, and institutions. Max Weber’s ideas of the “Protestant ethic” and Robert Bellah’s model of religious evolution are used as theoretical frameworks to analyze possible correspondences between religion, economy, and cultural evolution. It is suggested that Buddhism has also played a significant role in economic and civilizational development in (especially East) Asia.


Sangha; capital; economy; materiality; evolution; hermeneutics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3238217


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