Marcus Moberg. 2017.: Church, Market, and Media: A Discursive Approach to Institutional Religious Change.
- Side: 157-159
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.1890-7008-2018-02-05
- Publisert på Idunn: 2018-11-26
- Publisert: 2018-11-26
Church, Market, and Media: A Discursive Approach to Institutional Religious Change.
London: Bloomsbury Academic. 216 pages.
In Church, Market, and Media: A Discursive Approach to Institutional Religious Change, Marcus Moberg explores the dual processes of marketization and mediatization within seven institutional Protestant Christian churches in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Nordic countries. Through the analysis of official church discourse, he explores how religious organizations in decline gradually incorporate market – and new media-related discursive practices in an effort to revitalize themselves. The book is divided into two main parts, the first of which providing theoretical backgrounds on discourse analysis, marketization, and mediatization, which are then applied in the analyses in the second part.
Moberg, citing recent works by François Gauthier, Tuomas Martikainen, and Linda Woodhead, frames his study in terms of “a new approach to the study of religion in market society” (p. 5), focusing on the noneconomic, i.e. ideological, ideational, and discursive, aspects and effects of market economics on religions. This new approach strives to compensate for the lack of interest in economics Moberg sees in contemporary secularization/post-secularization frameworks and the outdated liberal-utilitarian view of “the market” of rational choice theory approaches to the sociology of religion.
The first theoretical chapter provides an introduction to discourse analysis more generally as well as an explanation of the particular framework utilized by Moberg in his study. His approach is primarily based on Norman Fairclough’s three-dimensional framework, which combines the analysis of text (i.e. written and spoken language in itself), practices (i.e. the production and distribution of texts), and socio-cultural practices (i.e. issues of ideology and power). Among the many discourse-analytic concepts presented in the chapter, the two that seem most central to the study are ideological-discursive formations (IDFs), which in this context can be viewed as competing discursive frameworks for social action within an organization or institution, and technologization of discourse, in this context understood as the process whereby the discourses of fields such as marketing and management “colonize” existing organizational discourses.
Moberg then moves on to marketization and mediatization. He views marketization as “the process whereby different social and cultural domains and subsystems are gradually, but increasingly visibly ‘subjected to a deliberate policy of economizing’” (p. 7). This process is related to the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s. He views the spread of neoliberal discourse as part of marketization, whereby economic language and logics are incorporated into domains previously considered “noneconomic”, such as education, health care, and religion. Marketization discourse refers to discourses and discursive formations centered on market terms, such as “cost-effectiveness” and “enterprise.”
Moberg defines mediatization as “the gradual process of social and cultural change whereby the influence of the media […] has gradually expanded within virtually every domain of society and culture and public and private everyday life” (p. 8). This is a dual process, as media, on the one hand, become more integrated into social and cultural institutions, and, on the other, become social institutions in their own right.
In the theoretical chapters, Moberg manages to present his frameworks thoroughly without dwelling on any individual topic longer than necessary. There are, however, some issues with the chapters. Illustrative examples are often abstract and the differences between certain types in a typology are not always made clear. For example, the differences between “prescriptive” and “validation” discourses in Heidi Campbell’s typology of ICT-related discursive practices of religious communities, as presented by Moberg (pp. 67–68), are not obvious enough as to enable readers to differentiate between the two if given a concrete example. Nevertheless, the first part of the book serves as a good introduction to discourse analysis and marketization and mediatization theory.
In the second part of the book, Moberg looks at official church discourse from seven institutional mainline Protestant churches: three churches in the United States; the Church of England (CoE); the Church of Sweden (CoS); the Church of Denmark (CoD); and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF). Moberg argues that these seven churches have a lot in common. They all have close connections to their respective social establishments, bureaucratic structures, and are highly engaged in civic issues. All of them have also experienced a decline in membership and influence, and a language of “crisis” and “need for change” is common within the churches. Combined, these factors make them vulnerable to marketization and mediatization. The first six churches are dealt with in a single chapter, while the ELCF receives additional attention in a separate chapter.
The churches in the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, and Denmark are presented with brief historical backgrounds as well as their current situations. Moberg is less interested in church theology than church history, structure, and social relationships, using broad terms such as “liberal” or “inclusive” to describe the institutions. While this choice helps keep the chapter more focused, I imagine that some readers may take issue with such vague terminology. While he finds clear signs of marketization and mediatization in each church, these processes take different forms in different churches. For example, the official discourse of the CoE is focused on ‘church growth’ and “leadership strategies,” while the CoS and the CoD aim at “effectiveness” in their roles as civil service institutions.
For the ELCF, Moberg provides a brief history and explanation of the current situation before devoting the rest of the chapter to analysis. Besides looking at marketization and mediatization discourse, he also moves “beyond discourse,” outlining how such discourses are put into practice. As a clear example of the implementation of media logics, Moberg discusses how the ELCF has developed new media routines and strategies after three major Christianity-related controversies in Finland between 2010 and 2013, during which time over 50 000 church members in total left the church, including a social media-based network of specialists and a media-monitoring system. Moberg views these new routines as examples of accelerating media accommodation and amalgamation. His decision to devote particular attention to his local, national context by giving the ELCF their own chapter was a good one. Rather than simply writing a chapter-length Finnish version of a section from the previous chapter, he elevates the analysis by, ironically, grounding it in examples of practical change. It does not devalue his other analyses; it points to the possibilities of a discursive approach to institutional religious change.
In the short postscript, Moberg states that his main aim “has been to highlight the ways in which processes of marketization and mediatization, in their ideational and discursive dimensions, work to affect institutional religious change” (p. 153). While he reaffirms his position that marketization and mediatization are key vectors of contemporary institutional religious change, and that changes in organizational practice tend to be preceded by changes in organizational discourse, he admits that his book has only provided a partial story, a “snapshot” in time. He suggests that future studies into this topic could, for example, focus on the negotiations that occur “in real life situations at different levels of day-to-day church and parish operations” (p. 154) when these new discursive frameworks are put into practice, and the relationships between these discursive and practical changes and changing ecclesiological and practical theological thinking.
Overall, Church, Market, and Media is a thorough work of research and Moberg has certainly written a book that lives up to his aims. Any reader interested in institutional religious change should find his discursive approach refreshing. The book is also suitable for teaching purposes, for example in courses on religion and economics and religion and media.