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The Adaptability of Pentecostalism: The Fit between Prosperity Theology and Globalized Individualization in a Los Angeles Church

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Abstract A main theme in the study of global Pentecostalism is its adaptability to the modern world system; yet, the way in which adaptability “works” is not well theorized. Hannah Arendt’s analysis of “the private and public realm” and Ulrich Beck’s description of “individualization and self-culture” offer heuristic frameworks for understanding how prosperity theology is well-suited to macro-historical patterns that address the growing individualization of everyday life, especially in relation to uncertain career paths and risk-oriented work structures. Arendt’s and Beck’s theoretical conceptualizations move away from sect-like notions of Pentecostals cultivating a bounded system among the non-Spirit-filled natives. Instead, their theoretical conceptualizations reveal Pentecostalism — especially in its prosperity orientation — to be fully compatible with individualization processes experienced by and demanded from today’s workers. A case study of the ministry of Oasis Christian Center to Hollywood entertainment industry workers illustrates connections between the Prosperity/Word of Faith orientation of the congregation and overarching processes of individualization.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Davidson College Box 7011, Davidson, North Carolina gemarti@davidson.edu

10.1163/157007412X621662
/content/journals/10.1163/157007412x621662
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/content/journals/10.1163/157007412x621662
2012-01-01
2016-12-04

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