The Prosperity Ethic: The Rise of the New Prosperity Gospel

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This chapter proposes that a new prosperity gospel is rising. We call it the prosperity ethic. The ethic has two features: sacralizing self-help and celebrating consumption. Taken together; these features value upward mobility and invoke Biblical and Christian principles to justify practical rules to acquire wealth. The main difference of the prosperity ethic from the old prosperity gospel lies in the content. The old prosperity gospel relies heavily on the promise of financial miracle; which is activated through the power of confession and giving. The prosperity ethic; by contrast; emphasizes financial growth through self-help and other practical tips concerning investment and resource management. As a result of these emphases; the old prosperity gospel and the new prosperity ethic have attracted different audiences. The former is a message of hope for the poor. The latter works for the aspirational middle class. Our analysis draws from illustrations from selected preachers and authors who are invested in spiritual and material wealth. These observations are mainly based on our project on the prosperity gospel in the Philippines; but we see resonances elsewhere. We then explain these shifts in relation to the global market economy.