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Trading on faith: religious movements and informal economic governance in Nigeria


  • Meagher, Kate


The pressures of economic crisis and reform that have gripped African societies have been accompanied by a proliferation of new religious movements. Amid concerns about the political impact of religious revivalism, little attention has been devoted to their economic implications. Focusing on the remarkable coincidence between the withdrawal of the state, the rise of religious movements, and the dramatic expansion of the informal economy, this paper examines the role of religious revivalism in processes of informal economic governance and class formation in contemporary Africa. Against the background of the historical role of religion in the development of market institutions across the continent, it traces the dynamics of religious revivalism and informal economic regulation in two regions of Nigeria. Rather than representing a return to occultist or patrimonial impulses, new religious movements reveal distinctly Weberian tendencies. However, modernising tendencies fostered within the informal economy by popular religious revivalism are being stunted by the relentless pressures of liberalisation, globalisation and pseudo-democratisation. Progressive religious tendencies among the poor are being instrumentalised by religious entrepreneurs and political elites, undermining fragile processes of entrepreneurial class formation taking place within the informal economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Meagher, Kate, 2009. "Trading on faith: religious movements and informal economic governance in Nigeria," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 27366, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:27366

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    Cited by:

    1. Kohnert, Dirk, 2010. "Drivers of change or cut-throat competitors? Challenging Cultures of Innovation of Chinese and Nigerian migrant entrepreneurs in West Africa," MPRA Paper 23132, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Kohnert, Dirk, 2010. "Are the Chinese in Africa More Innovative than the Africans? Comparing Chinese and Nigerian Entrepreneurial Migrants' Cultures of Innovation," EconStor Conference Papers 119528, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics


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