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The Protestant Ethic Today: Work, Meaning, Capitalism Among American Conservative Protestants

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The Protestant Ethic Today: Work, Meaning, and Moral Capitalism Among American Conservative Protestants

Dr Andrew Lynn, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

About the Seminar 

In the closing decades of the 20th century, a cohort of American Conservative Protestants began promoting a "Protestant work ethic" for creative class and knowledge workers. But surprisingly, these actors were neither retrieving Puritan notions of disciplined work nor heralding a newer "Prosperity Gospel" message of assured riches. I examine this work ethic as a moral framework for affirming economic activity and everyday life within modern work settings. While at times voicing commitments to wider moral ends, this framework favours aesthetic understandings of personal "callings" that elevate the sacredness of the "Monday world" to a level more conventionally reserved for Sunday. I explore how these ideas blend classical Christian theology with Romantic conceptions of wholeness and beauty in a manner that supercharges work with meaning and personal significance. But while heavy on the language of faith-work integration, these frameworks often serve to sift away religious values and identities that fall into conflict with modern workplace logics or practices. A historical analysis of these ideas reveals sociological factors that are likely driving a segment of American Conservative Protestants to seek greater peace with the dominant institutions of American society.

About the Speaker 

Andrew Lynn is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. His research bridges concerns in moral theory, political theory, and the sociology of work. His dissertation project examined evolving understandings of work and economics among American Conservative Protestants in the 20th and 21st century. A revised version of this project is set to be published by Oxford University Press in 2022. His more recent work probes the integration of ethics within economic enterprises. Andrew earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of Virginia.

Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture website

 

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