In recent decades a wide range of scholars have begun to investigate something that activists and social movements have long implicitly embraced in their organizing: religion and economics do not exist in isolation from each other but instead inform and shape their respective social, political, and cultural manifestations. Movements for economic democracy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century -- the Knights of Labor and the Colored Farmers' National Alliance and Co-Operative Union, for example -- were not only deeply connected to the institutions of the Christian church, but various Christian sensitivities deeply formed and shaped the ideals and strategies of organizing within these movements. Equally so, such movements in economic democracy formed and shaped people’s understanding of religion and its role in their lives, leading to often-forgotten movements such as Christian Socialism and the Black Social Gospel.
This forum takes up this recent turn in scholarship in light of the history of labor and social movements and their deep ties to religion. Broadly, panelists will explore how economic fights also take place in politics and religion, and vice versa. Does greater economic democracy lend itself to greater democracy within political and religious communities, and even more democratic religious concepts? What can movements fighting for economic democracy today learn from past and present labor and social movements in history? Specifically, this forum takes up the dialectic between economy and religion explored through the legacy and position of worker cooperatives in calls for economic democracy by progressive religious voices.