Do Not Tamper With the Clues: What The Goldman Sachs Group Can Tell Us About Religion


Do Not Tamper With the Clues: What The Goldman Sachs Group Can Tell Us About Religion

February 18, 2014 / 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm / Add to Google
370 Dwinelle Hall

Kathryn Lofton, Professor of Religious Studies, American Studies, History and Divinity, Yale University

Common sense may suggest that there is no organization perhaps less religious than Goldman Sachs, described variously by its critics in recent years as a demon, a snake pit, and a vampire squid attacking American finance, the investing public, and the good of global humanity. Yet the labeling of any agency as such a scourge ought immediately tempt the scholar of religion, since one of the grounding assumptions of our work has been that the demarcation of the profane is intimately tied to the elucidation of the sacred. To that end, this talk will consider the history, training practices, and civic presence of The Goldman Sachs Group as a case for students of religion. I seek to expose the connections between the history and practices of this multinational investment banking firm and accounts of religious thought and practice in the modern period. Such an argument does not seek to justify denoting Goldman Sachs as a Section 501(c)(3) organization. Rather, it seeks to ask again what we are trying to describe, and what we are trying to recommend, when we examine and diagnose the religious in an era profoundly shaped by knowledge management, finance capitalism, and corporatism.

Kathryn Lofton is Professor of Religious Studies, American Studies, History, and Divinity at Yale University. She is the author of Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011), as well as many essays addressing a variety of subjects observing the conjunction of religion and culture in the post-Civil War United States. Through studies of preachers and parents, bathing soap and office cubicles, evangelicalism and liberal theology, she has developed a portrait of religion in America that emphasizes the formation of religion through new technologies, renegade manifestos, and the cornucopia of cultural practices that contribute to social identity in the modern world. She is currently working on several projects, including a study of sexuality and Protestant fundamentalism; an analysis of the culture concept of the Goldman Sachs Group; and a religious history of Bob Dylan. For her work at Yale she has won the 2010 Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, the 2013 Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College, and the 2013 Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities.

The Berkeley Public Forum on Religion is a program of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.

Photo: Goldman Sachs interior (detail), Ducat III Business Centre, Moscow, KAD design