Protestant Ethics-In-Action: The Emergence of Voluntary Social Work in Copenhagen 1865-1915

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    This article shows how voluntary social work in late 19th/early 20th century Copenhagen emerged as the result of several creative re-interpretations of the cultural schemas of revivalist Protestantism as urban revivalists faced the social question. Informed by pragmatist cultural sociology, the concept of “collective soteriology” is introduced as a way of analyzing the Protestant reinterpretations in terms of doctrine, ideals of community, and recipes for action. It is shown how Lutheran revivalist ideas at the same time encouraged, constrained, and shaped the voluntary social action undertaken. The paper aims to uncover a sociologically neglected European tradition of civic action, to contribute to the sociology of Protestantism’s influence on civil society, and to develop a theoretical framework for analyzing the role of ideas in non-contentious collective action.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Journal of Sociology / Archives Europeennes de Sociologie
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)121-149
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


    • Protestantism
    • Voluntarism
    • Social work
    • Civil society
    • Welfare

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