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The Global “Bookkeeping” of Souls: Quantification and Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Missions

  • Martin Petzke

Abstract

This article combines perspectives of the sociology of quantification and field theory in analyzing the emergence of a field of global evangelical missions. Drawing analogies to Werner Sombart's thesis on the relationship of double-entry bookkeeping and the genesis of capitalism, it shows how the introduction of statistical methods and accounting techniques into the realm of missions in the nineteenth century constructed a visibility of a global distribution of religious adherents that spurred, oriented, and perpetuated an interorganizational sphere geared toward the conversion of the world to Christianity. The article identifies the soteriological and eschatological prerequisites that led to the coalescence of demographic notions and missionary perspectives and draws attention to the extensive reporting system of missionary societies that further consolidated logics of “bookkeeping” in missions. It argues that this ongoing evangelical missionary enterprise is an instance of a more general mechanism of quantification spawning a social field dedicated to the maintenance or alteration of particular “quantities.”

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The Global “Bookkeeping” of Souls: Quantification and Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Missions

  • Martin Petzke

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