Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

The Relevance of Spiritual Transcendence in a Consumer Economy: The Dollars and Sense of It

Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

The Relevance of Spiritual Transcendence in a Consumer Economy: The Dollars and Sense of It

Article excerpt


The concept of spirituality seems to contrast sharply with any discussion of our market economy: transcendent attachments versus materialistic consumption. Yet, we will argue that the two are very closely intertwined. As a basic, motivational dimension of personality, spirituality finds expression in every human endeavor, even the most concrete, material, here-and-now behaviors that characterize the business world. This report will address four issues: a) a presentation of the ASPIRES model of spirituality and religiousness; b) a brief overview of the empirical support for this construct as a robust, universal motivational aspect of human behavior; c) the relationship between spirituality and financial qualities, such as materialism, perceptions of the economic climate, spending patterns, and attitudes towards financial sustainability; and d) overview the three levels of influence spirituality has in the economic world: as a quality of the consumer that products can be marketed towards, as a motivational quality of corporate workers, and as a factor underlying corporate identity and ethics.

Keywords: ASPIRES; Spirituality; Religiou sness; Consumerism; Economic Attitudes.


Spirituality has been central to every culture, context, and time period as evidenced in offerings from literature, art, architecture, and other areas. A uniquely human dimension (Baumeister, Bauer & Lloyd, 2010; Frankl, 1969; Maslow, 1970; Sperry, 2001), spirituality relates to many important aspects of individuals' functioning, such as health outcomes (Burris, Sauer & Carlson, 2011; Golden et al., 2004; Koenig, 2010; Piedmont, 2004; Sawatzky, Gadermann & Pesut, 2009; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2010), pro-social behavior (Bonner, Koven & Patrick, 2002; Ciarrocchi, Piedmont & Williams, 2003; Piedmont, 2001), and satisfaction with life (Perrone et al., 2006; Waldron -Perrine et al., 2011).

Despites spirituality's broad and pervasive influence on psychosocial functioning, at first glance it may seem incongruous to compare spirituality with variables arising from the economic sector. After all, the Bible has many passages that appear to indicate that spirituality and money have little in common (e.g., "You cannot serve money and God" Luke, 16:13 or "If I have put my trust in money, if my happiness depends on wealth, would mean that I denied the God in heaven" Job 31:24, 28). But to make such an interpretation would be to misunderstand the meanings behind scripture. For in fact, the Judeo-Christian tradition has a well developed theology relating to work which extols its virtue and spiritual gifts (e.g., "so I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink, and his job. Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God" Ecc 2: 24 -25). We are called to work and to be productive (e.g., Genesis 2:15); to use the talents and gifts God gave us to His greater glory. Max Weber coined the term "Protestant Work Ethic" to describe the powerful influence Christianity had on shaping economic values and how economic realities can make certain religious ideas more appealing (Lambert, 2009). Spirituality and work have become inextricably linked in today's society. As such, a consideration of how spirituality may influence our attitudes about economics, our approach to consumerism, and job effectiveness is appropriate. Considering the amount of time and effort expended on jobs and careers, interest in workplace spirituality (WPS) can expand our understanding of workers' motivations and the economic goals they may be ultimately pursuing.

Giacalone & Jurkiewicz (2010) noted that professional interest in WPS has expanded "beyond the capacity of scholars to keep pace either theoretically or methodologically" (p. 3). They also identified problem areas hindering the scientific study of the field, including deficiencies in defining the construct and inadequate measurement tools. …

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