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Calvin's reformation in Geneva: self and social signalling

The London School of Economics and Political Science
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  • Bl Religion
  • Hb Economic Theory
  • Religious Science


As Weber (1904) recognized, Calvinistic beliefs about predestination may constitute a powerful incentive for good works; an individual wishes to receive assurances about her future prospects of salvation, and good works may provide a positive signal about such prospects. These beliefs can in turn create a social pressure to behave well, as good works can also signal to others that individuals belong to the “elect” and are therefore likely to behave well in social interactions. Moreover, the Consistory, an institution created by Calvin to monitor and publicize individuals’ behaviour, can allow for such social signalling. We analyze these self and social signalling incentives, and show how religions affect levels of cooperation and coordination.

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