What Money Can’t Buy.

The Dynamics between Market Orientation, Individualization, and Social Capital. The Case of the Danish National Church.

1. Summary

The Danish society is decisively impacted by market orientation and individualization with the consequent changes in its social capital. This project examines the dynamics between these three tendencies with particular regard to the public cultural institutions, using The Danish National Church as an empirical case.[1] The project will cover three levels: the social structure (including legal, economic, administrative and political factors); the members and users of the church; and the connections between the levels (resource mobilization, links between self-understanding, resource allocation, and participation, and the institutions’ production of public goods). In a country with reliable public statistics and a population ready to respond to questioning the Danish National Church as a major cultural institution is well suited to such a survey. The results will contribute to the international debate on the consequences and limits of market orientation in relation to cultural institutions.

2. Money makes the world go around

Since the 1990s states have increasingly given priority to market competition and have embarked on becoming competitive states, which also is reflected in the politics of managing public institutions. For example Ove Kaj Pedersen has demonstrated how Denmark’s development to a competitive state has affected public schooling (Pedersen 2011). A common denominator is the inroad of the market-oriented philosophy of New Public Management (NPM) in public affairs, including public cultural institutions (Hood 1991, see also Klausen and Ståhlberg 1998). 

Strictly economic analyses of the market conditions for cultural institutions in Denmark can be found in Møller and Nielsen 1999 and Hjorth-Andersen 2013. What is missing, however, is a broader interdisciplinary approach to the subject in which economics engages in interplay with other social and humanist disciplines in order to understand the reaction to market orientation by cultural institutions and their users. A step is being taken with the international workshop in Copenhagen: “Market, Society and Religion” on 6th-7th February 2014. This has been arranged by former chairman of the Danish Board of Economic Advisor Niels Kærgård, a member of the present application group, within the FKK research network Den danske religionsmodel under forandring (The Danish religious model in change). Point of departure is taken e. g. in M.J. Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012) and P. Goodchild’s Theology of Money (2009), analyzing money and market economy as the major matter of faith of our time.

As an appropriate example of a cultural institution undergoing change due to market orientation the application group has chosen the Danish National Church. From an economic point of view the Danish National Church is a significant cultural institution with an extremely broad base among the population. By virtue of the fact that its services cannot be claimed to have any market value in the traditional sense, it represents a public cultural institution in which the debate about the limits of as well market orientation as implementation of New Public Management is central.

In the USA, already fifty years ago the churches began arranging themselves according to the market forces (Berger 1967). In particular new commercially organized mega-churches have gained much ground, while traditional churches generally have lost much of their membership base. This distinctly American form of marketization is, however, unlikely to be repeated in Europe with its different traditions for state-church relationship. Here, a general europeanization has, however, left its mark on religion (Foblets and Alidadi eds. 2013) and has spurred changes in churchly governance in countries that were previously characterized by state church models (Gauthier and Martikainen 2013 b).   

3.  Social Capital and Individualization

Two further concepts are included in the analysis: social capital and individualization. Social capital as a concept is known from the work of especially Pierre Bourdieu and Robert Putnam, though with varying emphases. Briefly, Bourdieu’s approach is orientated towards the collective individuals in the field (Bourdieu 1986; Bourdieu 1992, 98-100), Putnam’s towards delivering social capital in the network, which comprises “connections among individuals - social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (Putnam 2000, 19). Social capital is thus of importance not only for the individual’s identity and strength; it also plays a significant part as a resource in society (Svendsen and Svendsen 2006). With its 4.5 million members, the Danish National Church contributes to the social capital – probably especially by its widespread celebration of the rites of passage (Bidstrup 2012) – by strengthening other resources such as the family, tradition, work morale, solidarity, social cohesion, culture, and nationality (Pettersson 2000, 408f. and Kærgård 2010).  

The third perspective of the project is individualization, which together with market orientation constitutes a crucial common social trend in a large number of countries, and in the case of Denmark as “collectively-oriented individualism” (Gundelach et al. 2008, 193 ff.). Thus, the so-called secularization process covers primarily the continued individualization of existential orientation in recent decades, both in Denmark and throughout the western world (Andersen and Lüchau 2011; Bass 2012). Following Charles Taylor, centering on the individual is just as much a historical product of Protestantism as of the Enlightenment and market orientation (Taylor 1989, 1991 and 2007). If indeed Protestantism, in casu Danish Lutheranism, is part of the cause of individualization, there is here a common sounding-board between the Lutheran Church and its individualized members which may be one of the reasons why the far majority of Danes seem to be comfortable paying for their membership of the church, despite their rare attendance at the services.

On this background the project builds on the following hypothesis: It is in the ability to accept individualization as a pre-condition that the Danish National Church as a cultural institution has a position of strength enabling it to contribute to society’s social capital while simultaneously setting limits to market orientation.

If this hypothesis can be substantiated, it can contribute to the debate on the conditions under which cultural institutions can exist in the competitive state.

4.      The Research Situation

As indicated above, the project’s main concepts and theories are well illustrated in international literature. Likewise there are a number of surveys of respectively the Danish National Church’s institutional development and the Danes’ attitude to religion and church (see the forthcoming overview in Iversen 2014). Some of these contribute distinctively to the main questions in this project.

As regards the Danish National Church as a cultural institution the sociologist Richard Jenkins concludes his Danish fieldwork thus: “The contribution of Den Danske Folkekirke to the experience of a collective sense of danskhed cannot be denied” (Jenkins 2012, 250). This is in accordance with earlier conclusions from the survey of the relation between institutions and mentality in Denmark in I hjertet af Danmark (At the Heart of Denmark, Gundelach et al. 2008).

On the structural level Lisbet Christoffersen’s work from 1998, Kirkeret mellem stat, marked og civil samfund (Church Law between State, Market, and Civil Society), shows how even before the introduction of NPM there were elements pertaining not only to state and public law but also to private law, including law on associations in the Danish National Church. This analysis has received a number of additional interdisciplinary perspectives in Fremtidens danske religionsmodel (The Danish Religious Model of the Future, Christoffersen et al. eds. 2012).

Among contributions illustrating the importance of individualization for the Danish National Church and everyday Christianity are Rubow (2000) and Johannessen-Henry (2013). In both surveys it is a central point that ‘Christianities’ are primarily an expression of a personal life attitude of the individual.

5.      Project Resources

The interdisciplinary team behind this project includes competences in sociology of religion, law of religion, theology, and economics, shared among three junior as well as four senior participants. The three PhD students are all academically strong as well as practically experienced. The four seniors have extensive experience of leadership in research projects and of working together. The team also has a good gender balance which we think will be helpful in order to have a fuller understanding of various aspects of the project. Furthermore, support will come from the following seven international and Danish researchers, who have all accepted to serve as consultants to the project:

-          Professor Philip Goodchild, University of Nottingham (Philosophy of Religion)

-          Professor Ove Kaj Pedersen, Copenhagen Business School (Political Science)

-          Professor Jørn Henrik Petersen, University of Southern Denmark (Economics)

-          Professor Per Pettersson, University of Karlstadt and The Impacy Project, University of Uppsala (Sociology of Religion)

-          Professor Ulla Schmidt, Stiftelsen Kirkeforskning and University of Oslo (Church Research)

-          Academy of Finland Academy researcher Pamela Slotte, University of Helsinki (Law and Religion)

-          Professor Linda Woodhead, Lancaster University (Religious Studies)

6.      The Structure of the Project

The survey is organized through eight closely-linked segments covering the determining levels in the Danish National Church. The segments are distributed among the seven colleagues:

Through the first year of the project the participants will discuss important theory-based international works with a view to producing a number of joined theoretical and methodological articles (see ‘Milestones’ below). The aim of this is that the empirical investigations shall proceed within coordinated theoretical perspectives to ensure optimal synergy and coherence in the project. At the concluding international conference in June 2017 the senior researchers together with the project consultants will present the insights from the project as a draft for a monograph in English, giving a comprehensive picture of the dynamics between market orientation, individualization, and social capital in cultural institutions, based on the case of the Danish National Church.

7.      The Segments of the Project

7.1. Legal development: Marketization of the legal status of the Danish National Church (Lisbet Christoffersen)

It is a general assumption of the entire project that a marketization of the Danish National Church is currently taking place, albeit within the framework of public law. In this segment a comprehensive legal analysis of changes in church legislation over the past 15 years will be undertaken, including white papers and regulatives. Such an analysis has not been done before. As part of this, the survey will analyze possible changing conditions in terms of both limitations and opportunities for members of the Danish National Church. Also included is the extent to which a) changes in the law take individualization into account as regards church activities, and b) whether such changes make for greater or less social capital. The segment’s research question is how far does a legal marketization of the church lead to members’ distancing themselves from the church or resigning from it, or to which extend are they acquiring better access to and confidence in it as an institution. The survey will result in a Danish peer-reviewed article and an international research article together with Karen Marie Leth-Nissen.

In the concluding phase of the entire project this segment will then study the results of the other segments in order to place marketization of cultural institutions – with the Danish National Church as an example – in the context of European legal developments (Petersen et al. eds. 2008; Neergaard and Nielsen eds. 2012).  The question then is whether the European legal development in governance structures (Sand et al. 2004) combined with general tendencies in international law on religion (Ferrari and Cristofori eds. I-IV 2013; Aarsheim and Slotte, forthcoming) implies an inertia which in itself leads to a legal marketization of society’s cultural institutions, including the national churches. Results will be published in the international publication of the entire project.

7.2.  A Welfare Economic Perspective of the Danish National Church (PhD project by Sidsel Kjems with Niels Kærgård as advisor)

There is no overall knowledge of the socio-economic effects of the Danish National Church. This segment will map the resources allocated to the Danish National Church and its contributions to society. Applying welfare theory it will investigate what resources society spends on the Danish National Church and what is produced in exchange, and for whom (Marker-Larsen 2005). Based on the welfare theory’s concepts of scarcity, resource allocation, and distribution, the following three research questions are raised:  1) What resources does society allocate to the Danish National Church?  2) What does the Danish National Church produce in exchange? 3) Who benefits from this production?

Christian Hjorth-Andersen has assessed the costs for a number of cultural areas by producing specific analyses of institutions (Hjorth-Andersen 2013). On the input side Hjorth-Andersen only assesses the monetary input from private and public sources respectively. This segment will broaden the analysis to take in which resources society allocates to the Danish National Church in finance, manpower, and moral support. The logic of the market demands that cultural institutions should attract users, whereas the Danish National Church must attract members who pay church tax. On the output side Hjorth-Andersen focuses on the concrete products of cultural institutions, such as theatre attendance. This segment will also include contributions of the church to society’s culture and social capital in a broader sense, drawing on Fukuyama’s work about trust (Fukuyama 1995).

The investigation will start with publicly available sources such as material from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Church, the national budget, statistics, accounts, and reports. As a next step seven parishes in the national church will be selected according to the urbanization code (see below), in order to conduct an in-depth analysis of their accounts, as well as to make observations and interviews to gather information about the extent of income and volunteer work (question 1), and church production (question 2). Margit Warburg’s approach in studying religious organizations’ ability to mobilize resources, cf. segment 5, will be applied to the analysis of private contributions to the Danish National Church through volunteer work, funding organs, art donations, etc.

The segment will discuss to what extent the methodology from environmental economy to assess the value of public goods and externalities (Halsnæs, Andersen and Laesen 2007) can be applied to the economics of religion and other fields of culture. The project will include a three- month study trip abroad focusing on research into public goods and externalities. The combined result will be four articles linked together by a PhD report on: 1) Resource mobilization in the Danish National Church from private sources (with Hans Raun Iversen), 2) Resource allocation to the Danish National Church, 3) To what extent can methodology from environmental economy to assess the value of public goods and externalities be applied to the economics of religion (with Niels Kærgård, and 4) What public goods and externalities does the Danish National Church produce?

7.3. Market or Meaning? Being a Church member in the Age of Individualization. (PhD project by Karen Marie Leth-Nissen with Hans Raun Iversen as advisor)

This segment contributes by gathering, analyzing, and discussing theoretically empirical data on the introduction of NPM into the Danish National Church, together with data on the members’ attitude to changes in the church. The central research question is: How does the Danish National Church relate to Danes, and vice versa. Are we dealing with the market or the meaning? As regards the discussion on the significance of individualization, reference will be made to Beck 2001, and on the individual’s dependence on social relations to Giddens 1991. Smidt 2003 will be used for the clarification of the theory of social capital.

Empirical data will be gathered through source studies and qualitative interviews (cf. Pettersson 2000). The former will be concentrated on official material from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Church since 2003, including the Report on Economic Regulation (2003), Regulative 1491/2007 and Regulative 1527/2011. The implementation of NPM will be examined by interviewing 14 deans (of a total of 107), selected so that 7 were appointed before and 7 since 2003. In addition 2 of them must have been involved in the pilot project on In-service Training of Deans (Lindhardt and Andersen 2013), and 2 must have the degree of Master of Public Administration. 7 members of church budget committees will also be interviewed. Both they and the deans will be selected according to the urbanization code used with good results by Steen Marqvard Rasmussen in studies in church sociology since 1993 (see Rasmussen 2012, 17). The code divides the country’s parishes according to the number of inhabitants in the largest town in the parish into 13 urbanization categories and can be bought from Statistics Denmark. The code can be used successfully, as Rasmussen has proved, with a division into seven categories. 

Members’ attitudes to change in the church will be examined in 14 in-depth interviews, carried out using a method developed for studies of  resignations from the Danish National Church (Leth-Nissen forthcoming 2014), as well as through 7 focus-group interviews (cf. Rosen 2009) with 5-7 participants, selected among present, former, and rejoined members as well as non-members, divided by gender, age, job, income and domicile. The interviewees will again be dispersed through the urbanization code, as there is evidence that the degree of urbanization makes a considerable difference on attitudes to the church (Lüchau and Andersen 2012). Study visits to Professor Linda Woodhead in Lancaster and Professor Per Pettersson in Uppsala will give the inquiry international perspectives.  Results will be published in a PhD report with four peer-reviewed articles: 1) The Service Church: Social Capital and Limits of the Market? (with Hans Raun Iversen), 2) Cleansing of the Temple: New Public Management in the Danish National Church (with Lisbet Christoffersen),  3) There is no such thing as a free choice, 4) Market or Meaning? Being a Church Member in the Age of Individualization (with Jes Heise Rasmussen).

7.4. Marketization of the Danish National Church: Two Perspectives (PhD project by Jes Heise Rasmussen with Margit Warburg as advisor).

This segment contributes by examining two aspects of the marketization of the Danish National Church: the member’s expectations and attitudes, and the political regulation of the church. Inspired by Pettersson’s analysis of the readjustment of the Swedish church from being a supplier of the traditional church services to becoming a player in a consumer society, this segment will examine corresponding tendencies in selected parishes in Denmark. Pettersson underlines a discrepancy between the church’s own success criteria and the members’ understanding of this. The Swedish church regards worship participation as the criterion of success, whereas church members primarily want an accessible church in connection with baptism, marriage, and funerals (Pettersson 2013, 48). This is in agreement with individualization theories (Beckford 2003, Heelas and Woodhead 2005).

Material will be gathered through a questionnaire for 1.200 members of the Danish National Church from 14 parishes, as well as interviews with 20 or so of these. The parishes will be selected using the urbanization code described in segment 3. Participants will be selected from each parish so they are demographically representative. In the formulation of the questionnaire main emphasis will be on questions developed in the light of the theories employed in the total project, but with due reference to Pettersson 2000 and church member surveys in Germany and Norway to ensure a continuity with these studies.

The Copenhagen church closures in 2012-13 with their pre-history since the 1970s provide an opportunity to analyze the political discourses in the governance of the Danish National Church. The empirical data will be minutes of meetings and correspondence related to the closures between the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Church, parish councils, the bishop and the Kirkefondet (a Church Foundation, that built many of the churches), supplemented with interviews. The analysis will draw on the work of Toumas Martikainen and Francois Gauthiers with links between neo-liberalism, the consumer society, and religion (Gauthier and Martikainen 2013a, 2013b). A subsidiary goal of the analysis will be to identify the content of the market discourse in order to clarify the transformative elements in the martetization of the Danish National Church (Fairclough 2003, Bourdieu 1984 and 2003). The market discourse is expected to be characterized by elements related to NPM as a steering mechanism for making citizen service more efficient (Kjær 2004).

A study visit to Professor Linda Woodhead, Lancaster University, who is very active in researching the field at a European level, will contribute to the final formulation of the questionnaire and the project’s perspectives. Results will be published in a PhD- Thesis together with 3 articles: 1) Copenhagen church closures (with Hans Raun Iversen), 2) Quantitative and qualitative methods (with Margit Warburg), and 3) Market or Meaning? Being a Church Member in the Age of Individualization (with Karen Marie Leth-Nissen).

7.5. Resource Mobilization in Danish Churches abroad (Margit Warburg)

Resource mobilization is an expression of economists and is typically applied in analyses of strategies for developing the economy in poor sectors or countries (Di John 2008). In sociology, resource mobilization is applied pragmatically for understanding the economic and organizational basis of social groups and movements (Johnson, Choate and Bunis 1984, Zald and Garner 1987, Balch 2006). The resources are not just pecuniary in nature; voluntary organizations also draw upon the members’ willingness to spend time and labor in the communal life. Except for Margit Warburg’s study of the Danish Baha’i community (Warburg 2006) few existing resource mobilization studies have attempted to quantify and analyze the interplay of money, time, and labor and their significance for the organizational sustainability of religious communities.

The Danish churches abroad are closely associated with the Danish National Church but are otherwise independent voluntary organizations which must mobilize most of their resources in the congregation. By being exposed to much more market-oriented conditions than the Danish National Church in Denmark these churches represent a basis for a comparative study. Some of the churches are currently undergoing a critical transition from traditional immigrant churches to churches that also serve an increasing contingent of expatriate Danes. Membership of the congregations has thereby become more transient – a development probably also seen in parishes in Denmark with the increased mobility of people. Selected member churches of the Danish National Church Abroad/Danish Seamen’s Church (DSUK) will be analyzed. In this work Warburg will draw upon her contacts with DSUK over a number of years, on previous field studies of Danish National Churches and congregations abroad (Warburg 2013), and on her established network among the pastors for setting up telephone interviews and additional field trips. The output of this segment will be one empirical and one methodological article.

7.6.  The Danish National Church’s Market Orientation and its General Social Significance (Niels Kærgård)

The classic discussion on the interplay between religion and social development in Max Weber and Karl Marx has been dead among economists for most of the 20th century, but it has blazed up again in the last 10-15 years, for instance in Barro and McCleary 2003. Denmark and the Danish National Church are in many ways an ideal laboratory for an analysis of this interplay, because the original Danish model is so simple – until a few decades ago it comprised a single religion and a social system without major wars and social upheavals and at the same time with reliable statistical information. The model has lately been exposed to a number of exogenous impacts, such as increased immigration of new religious minorities together with political demands for quantitative documentation also of non-material production.

In this segment there will be an analysis of how the Danish National Church’s role in society has been influenced by these impacts. Can a cultural institution like the Danish National Church become a breathing hole in a society that is becoming increasingly oriented towards effectiveness and the market, or will market orientation change the Danish National Church and its structure fundamentally? What does the market orientation of the Danish National Church mean for the public and the market-external benefits it delivers in the form of, for instance, work morale, solidarity with the weak, and social cohesion?

The analyses in this segment build partly on the empirical surveys form the other segments and partly on economic theory, where a comprehensive conceptual apparatus has been established on the value appreciation of qualitative benefits, existential values, and so on. Since Douglass North (1990), in economic history and developmental economy a theory-building has been developed for the relation of traditions, institutions, and culture to social development, see Menard & Shirley (2005) for an overview. This theory is well-suited to an analysis of the Danish National Church

There is a large untapped potential here to contribute to the major questions on the interplay between religion and social development by interpreting Danish data in the light of recent economic theory. Results of this segment will be presented in two articles and contributions for the final joint publication.

7.7. Theology, Economics, and Participation in the Danish National Church (Hans Raun Iversen)

By way of contributing to an overall conclusion of the entire project, this segment in continuation of analyses carried out  by Lisbet Christoffersen, Karen Marie Leth-Nissen and Jes Heise Rasmussen first examines how the terminology, way of thinking, and thus the theological self-understanding has changed in the Danish National Church. The segment includes further empirical material (such as debates in the 10 most representative church periodicals) and a longer historical approach with the White Paper from the Church Structural Commission in 1971 as point of departure (Reeh 2012). The question is if the Danish National Church’s theology has become market oriented and individual centered since then.

In the second part of the segment also the Danish National Church’s economic structure and resource mobilization as charted by Sidsel Kjems, Margit Warburg and Niels Kjærgaard will be seen in its historical context since 1971. A crucial point in this part is to link statistics on participation in the Danish National Church to the economic development in an attempt to answer the question: Is there any connection between resource allocation to various activities of the Danish National Church’s and participation in these activities? This sort of investigations has not previously been carried out.    

The survey on participation statistics will draw on material from a newly started project collecting and analyzing current statistics from the Danish National Church’s parishes, deaneries, and diocese, from the new statistic oriented Church Calendar from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Church and the personal number registry (CPR) plus diverse surveys on church behavior. This survey is funded by Ministry of Gender Equality and the Church and lead by Hans Raun Iversen, together with Associate Professor Marie Vejrup Nielsen, Center for Contemporary Religion at Aarhus University.

The results from the two empirical-analytical parts of this segment will be published in two articles. The overall conclusive aspects of this segment will contribute to establishing the approach in the joint international book from the project.

8. Organization, timetable, outputs and milestones

The project period is from 1st September 2014 to 31st August 2017. The project is organized in cooperation between 1) Center for Church Research, Faculty of Theology, 2) Institute of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Faculty of Humanities, 3) Department of Food and Resource Economics, Faculty of Science, all at University of Copenhagen. One PhD-student will work with one of the seniors from each of these research units. The project premises will be at Center for Church Research. Monthly seminars are arranged in the project with all participants taking turns to present work analyses, papers, drafts for articles and book chapters. In each term project theories, methods, and perspectives will be discussed with two of the seven international and Danish consultants. The mutual discussions of selected theories, applied to the Danish National Church, will result in 19 peer-reviewed articles, most of them written jointly by a senior and junior researcher. To this is added the above mentioned joint international book from the project.

Via home page, media contributions, public lectures etc. the project will communicate knowledge on the Danish National Church as an example of the interrelations between market orientation, individualization, and social capital. In the last year of the project a series of lectures for Master and Open University students and a course for PhD students will be arranged. All milestones from the project can be put together as follows:


Milestone Plan for Outputs, following 1st Author

[1] We choose to use this socio-political term for The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. For a discussion on how to label this church, see Christoffersen et al.  eds. 2010, 145-147.