Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture

By Stratton, Lawrence | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture


Stratton, Lawrence, Anglican Theological Review


Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture. Edited by John M. Giggie and Diane Winston. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002. x + 259 pp. $60.00 (library binding); $22.00 (paper).

University of Texas at San Antonio historian John M. Giggie and Pew Charitable Trust program officer Diane Winston have assembled an unusually intriguing and stimulating anthology that explores the relationship between the rise of urban commercial culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the perhaps surprising success of religion in cities. The editors invite readers to take a downtown walking tour of any North American city. The tour would undoubtedly find many examples of churches, synagogues, and mosques located in the midst of the bustle of commercial culture, demonstrating that "in urban areas, sacred lile and commercial life are deeply intertwined" (p. 1). This well-written volume demonstrates that "the rapid advance of industrial capitalism in North American cities from the late nineteenth century onward did not fuel a declension in religious devotion and practice, as many historians suggest, but rather a profound transformation, even flowering, of it" (p. 1).

With this thesis, Giggie and Winston directly challenge widespread popular and scholarly assumptions that cities, in contrast to the countryside, were inimical to religiosity so that "Godly people, unable to compete against the lures of the flesh and snares of the soul, gave up physical and imaginative ground to atheists, secularists, and heathens" (p. 2). The editors reiterate that since Max Weber's theories about secularization and "Harvey Cox's celebration of the secular city, the century's leading academics pronounced religions passing, especially in the cosmopolitan centers" (p. 3). Just as the editors' proposed walking tour demonstrates, it just is not so. All of the authors in the volume, Giggie and Winston declare, "are united in the proposition that religion is an integral and necessary part of the story of how cities develop in North America" (p. 4). It would be impossible to truly understand the evolution of either American cities or American religious movements without recognizing their interaction. Indeed, the editors conclude that the true story of faith and commercial culture "is not one in which religion and commercial culture are pitted against each other but rather placed together in a sometimes volatile but surprisingly consistent embrace" (p. …

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