The Economics of Religion in India by Sriya Iyer
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|Publisher||Harvard University Press|
Iyer explores how growth, inequality, education, technology and social trends both affect and are affected by religious groups. Her exceptionally rich data―drawn from ten years of research, including a survey of almost 600 religious organizations in seven states―reveal the many ways religions interact with social welfare and political conflict. After India’s economy was liberalized in 1991, she shows, religious organizations substantially increased their provision of services, compensating for the retreat of the state. Iyer’s data also indicate that religious violence is more common where economic growth is higher, apparently because growth increases inequality, which sectarian politicians might exploit to encourage hostility toward other religions. As inequality leads to social polarization, religious doctrines become more extreme. But there are hopeful patterns in Iyer’s data, too. Religious organizations, on balance, play a positive role in India’s socioeconomic development and women’s participation in religious life is on the rise.
The Economics of Religion in India has much to teach us about India and other pluralistic societies the world over and about the power of economics to illuminate some of societies’ deepest beliefs and dynamics.