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JSPES, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Summer 2012)
pp. 199-221

Religious and Cultural Systems as Agents of Change in Developing Areas

Daniel Egiegba Agbiboa

Center for Development Studies, University of Cambridge

Do cultural and religious systems play a role in mobilizing for political and socio-economic change in developing areas? This is the overriding question of this paper. The central thesis is that cultural and religious systems do not only deeply form and inform the Weltanschauung of the vast majority of people in developing areas but also remain pervasive and vital institutions that can be used (or abused) in creating consensus and mobilizing society for change. This paper seeks to demonstrate how religious and cultural systems – theorized in the Geertzian and Tillichian sense as “meaning systems” – affect the way a society mobilizes for political and socioeconomic change. The paper points out that a recognition of the significance of religion as an agent affecting the direction of and potential for change in society has yet to penetrate mainstream development thinking and practice.