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The economy of communion in Argentina : exploring the relationship between culture and economy Hollman, Verónica Carolina

Abstract

The task of this thesis is to dispute conceptually and empirically the often-made division between economy and culture. This view attributes an instrumental logic to economy, and a non-instrumental logic to culture. It is then supposed that such logics remain separate and distinct. Drawing from an alternative cultural approach, I argue that this distinction is erroneous because it assumes that the economic action is characterized by a unique logic o f action, economic rationality. This narrow and highly controversial view of economic arena is then used to establish an analytical boundary between economy and culture. To empirically challenge such a thesis, I look at a group of Argentinean firms joining a project entitled 'Economy of communion', launched in 1991 by the Focolare Movement. First, I examine the social practices of this movement throughout its history. I suggest that the Focolare Movement became a social movement when it started challenging the separation between secular and spiritual practices, and the hegemony of rationality embodied by the 'homo-economicus' in the economic sphere. Second, I consider the relation between the project and culture by examining how and why entrepreneurs have re-defined the culture of giving in the process of running their firms. Finally, I suggest that firms joining the economy of communion testify to another logic o f action in the economic domain besides instrumental rationality. I argue that many of the entrepreneurs' actions are neither defined nor exclusively determined by the accomplishment of economic results. Furthermore, entrepreneurs illustrate how cultural aspects, particularly spiritual beliefs, shape the understanding of the firm, as well as its economic strategies.

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