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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays on Political Economy of Religion

  • Author(s): Grigoriadis, Theocharis Nikolaou
  • Advisor(s): Roland, Gérard R
  • et al.

My dissertation constitutes a contribution to the study of religion and political economy. It consists of four essays. My first essay argues that religious norms matter for the economic nature and modernization of political regimes. Religion is defined as a commitment device between the leader and his selectorate. More collectivist religions require a higher level of public goods provision by the government. In the collectivism-individualism continuum, Islam is treated as the most collectivist and Protestantism as the most individualist religion, while Judaism is denoted as the median religion. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are located in intermediate points between Judaism and Islam or Protestantism respectively. In the analysis of dominant religions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, this ordered sequence of demands for public goods is defined by the structure of the Eastern Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim collectives: the monastery, the kibbutz, and the tariqa. Popular demand for public goods is shaped by religious norms. Leaders consider those in order to decide the intensity and nature of modernization. Regime transition occurs when the leader is not able to meet popular demand for public goods. Contrary to conventional wisdom, modernization does not reduce the influence of religious norms on public goods distribution and can facilitate transition both to democracy and dictatorship. In my second essay, I analyze the effects of religious identity on attitudes toward political centralization. I define religious identity as personal identification with distinct religious traditions and collective ideas regarding the provision of local public goods. In individualist religions such as Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, local public goods are defined as contracts between individuals and local government (contractual public goods). In societies where such religions dominate, we should expect to see negative effects of religious identity on evaluation of central government, because local governments providing such local public goods are more accountable to citizens and in this sense more consistent with individualist ideals. In collectivist religions such as Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy, on the other hand, local public goods are defined as welfare guarantees directed to citizens by the local government (hierarchical public goods). In societies where such religions dominate, we should expect to see positive effects of religious identity on evaluation of central government, since local administrations that are strongly accountable to the central government are best able to make good on such guarantees. Judaism combines elements from both collectivist and individualist religions. In Israeli Jewish society, where public goods are treated both as contractual and hierarchical, we should expect to see both negative and positive effects of religious identity on evaluations of central government. I test these predictions using survey data from Russia and Israel newly gathered for this project. Consistent with the theory's predictions, I find that in Russian Orthodoxy, Sunni Islam and Arab Christianity (Greek Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism), religious identity is positively associated with evaluations of central government. Similarly, in Judaism I find that religious identity as personal identification matters negatively and as collective ideas positively for evaluations of central government. My third essay examines experimentally the effects of collectivism on public goods contributions by regional bureaucrats in Tomsk and Novosibirsk, Russia. I expand the standard public goods experiment with three treatments, which I define as degrees of Orthodox collectivist enforcement: 1. Solidarity, 2. Obedience, and 3. Universal discipline. I argue for an Eastern Orthodox rationality in the Russian bureaucracy that prioritizes collective welfare over individual profit. Russian Orthodox collectivism is implemented through Bayesian and universal disciplinary monitoring such that hierarchical revelation of individual contributions and enforcement of collective punishment occur. Contrary to conventional wisdom about free-riding in administrative institutions, higher ranks in Russian Orthodox bureaucracies are associated with higher levels of contributions and enforcement. En lieu of conclusions, in my fourth essay, I discuss the political and economic incentives that led to the emergence, peak and contraction of Kulturkampf in the Catholic lands of Prussia between 1871 and 1878. I argue that Bismarck's Kulturkampf reveals the fallacies of secularism as a series of enforced state policies: 1. De facto dominance of religious majority over religious minorities that are in much higher need to preserve their public and social status, 2. Transformation of clergymen into bureaucratic experts. The distinction between collectivism and individualism can be validated through the degree of restrictions imposed on religious institutions and their presence in the public sphere. Secularism is not devoid of religion, as it consistently advocates bureaucratic expertise and thus transition to more individualist forms of government.

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