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Engage our 2016 Theme: ‘Christianity & the New Spirit of Capitalism’

In Professor Kathryn Tanner’s introduction to this year’s Giffords theme, she states that contemporary capitalism can ‘hinder the development of any critical perspective on it.’ Given this situation, we are looking forward to her lectures as a mode of resistance to the influence of finance-dominated capitalism on our societies, workplaces, and ‘spiritualities’.

This weblog offers the opportunity to further develop our critical perspective by engaging Professor Tanner’s lecture content online. I will be serving as this year’s blog host (read my profile), which means that I will be posting initial thoughts on each of the lectures here, drawing on questions submitted by audience members. I will also be inviting various contributors to post reflections on what they have heard.

Join us by sharing your insights on Professor Tanner’s lectures on this blog. As the effects of capitalism are pervasive in our cultures and religions, we are looking for a wide spectrum of voices to achieve truly critical leverage. In other words, we are not only seeking contributions from members of the academy, nor is discussion limited to those who practice a particular faith. Here are a few ways to take part in our conversation:

Plan to attend one or more of the Giffords, which take place from May 2-12, 2016 at the University of Edinburgh. A description of each lecture is available here, alongside details about location, times, and tickets.

Pose a question at the lecture itself, either directly or via email and twitter at #GiffordsEd. Questions submitted electronically will be added to the queue during the discussion period to follow each lecture, as well as being integrated into my blog posts.

Write your reflections on our discussion thread in the space between lectures–perhaps later that evening, perhaps during the next couple days. You’ll see an opportunity at the base of each post to ‘leave a reply.’ If you’re currently a blogger, posting here will open up your own website to others as a means to continue the conversation.

Open up our discussion to others through social media. This is an important way that we can share the resources of the academy more broadly, as not everyone will be able to attend. Use the icons attached to each post as well as twitter hashtag #GiffordsEd.

Read key works in advance.
Professor Tanner makes the bold statement that she plans to ‘reverse the project’ of German sociologist Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The allusion in her lecture title is clear, so it would be useful to refresh on that classic work, or encounter it for the first time, to gauge whether she succeeds.
As for Professor Tanner’s own work, she has written on markets previously in Economy of Grace (2005). She is also well known for her book Christ the Key (2010), which offers a central element of her larger project. There is currently a group of postgraduate students at New College reading through the latter, so you may want to take the cue from them.

However you choose to engage, I look forward to working together to develop critical perspectives on, indeed to counteract, the ways we have been shaped by global capitalism.

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