Here at the Forum at elsewhere, my friend Nate Oman (William and Mary Law School) and I have debated the “doux commerce” thesis: the notion that the market, over time, softens disagreements about religion and other deep commitments. It’s a thesis with a proud lineage that goes back to Montesquieu and other Enlightenment figures. Nate is persuaded by the thesis and wrote a very good book about it. I’m less persuaded by the thesis and wrote an article critiquing it. But it’s been a fun and interesting debate.
I was delighted to see that Nate is now the co-editor of a new collection of essays from Routledge that continues the conversation. The book is Democracy, Religion, and Commerce: Private Markets and the Public Regulation of Religion. Nate’s co-editor is Kathleen Flake (University of Virginia). Here’s the description from the Routledge website:
This collection considers the relationship between religion, state, and market. In so doing, it also illustrates that the market is a powerful site for the cultural work of secularizing religious conflict. Though expressed as a simile, with religious freedom functioning like market freedom, “free market religion” has achieved the status of general knowledge about the nature of religion as either good or bad. It legislates good religion as that which operates according to free market principles: it is private, with no formal relationship to government; and personal: a matter of belief and conscience. As naturalized elements of historically contingent and discursively maintained beliefs about religion, these criteria have ethical and regulatory force. Thus, in culture and law, the effect of the metaphor has become instrumental, not merely descriptive. This volume seeks to productively complicate and invite further analysis of this easy conflation of democracy, religion, and the market. It invites scholars from a variety of disciplines to consider more intentionally the extent to which markets are implicated and illuminate the place of religion in public life. The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and academics working in the areas of law and religion, ethics, and economics.