Mobilizing Ethics: Chinese Christian Entrepreneurs in Italian Coffee Bars
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AbstractMax Weber has already suggested the interaction between religious ethics and business activities. In this vein this paper probes the ways in which, on one hand, the institution of Christian ethics restricts entrepreneurial practice, and on the other hand, the religious practitioners strategically compromise ethical prescriptions to economic ends. Based on an ethnographic case study of Chinese entrepreneurs in neighborhood coffee bars in Bologna, a Northern Italian city, this paper examines the ethical practices of Chinese bar owners in this family-managed business under the seemingly contradictory “double bind” (Bateson 1979) of being both a successful entrepreneur and a good evangelic Christian.

This religion, which had already been practiced by these Chinese entrepreneurs before emigration, requires regularly engaging into church activities while not involving with gambling. However, managing an Italian neighborhood bar can be hardly independent of gambling and time conflict with church schedules. Therefore, they negotiate the dilemma between economic interests and religious ethics by employing a variety of coping strategies, such as promoting slot machines yet physically keeping themselves away.

Examining those strategic practices, I argue that the Chinese migrant entrepreneurs prioritize economic interest over cultural and religious ethics in their business activities. Their religious practice is discursively negotiable and practically manipulated for the sake of economic profits. This research contributes to the debate on economics and ethics, and makes an empirical case that economic rationality outweighs cultural preferences under the guidance of pragmatic ideology.
All Author(s) ListTING DENG
Name of ConferenceThe 115th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association
Start Date of Conference16/11/2016
End Date of Conference20/11/2016
Place of ConferenceMinneapolis
Country/Region of ConferenceUnited States of America
Year2016
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2018-09-10 at 16:25