The Organizational Ecology of Consecrated Life: The Spread and Viability of Christian Orders
Nico Sonntag (doctoral project)
The emergence of Christian religious orders had a transformative impact on the Western world. Coming from an organizational ecology standpoint, this dissertation project investigates the diffusion of religious and organizational innovations on the basis of historical data about Christian orders. Statistics about the various orders’ historical development serve to explain recurring patterns in the life cycles of religious orders as well as their different rates of growth and expansion. An organizational population’s spread or contraction is the result of monasteries being founded or closed. In keeping with the sociological concept of "religious economy," the project conceives orders and their monasteries as organizations competing for resources. This notion of resources encompasses the financial and material means of subsistence, potential members, and the benevolence of secular as well as ecclesiastical institutions. Organizational characteristics (such as ideology and structure) and environmental factors influence orders’ varying success in securing those resources. Empirically, the project draws on standardized histories of some 2000 monasteries belonging to 60 orders in Central Europe that will be particularly suited for studying how different religious orders interacted. In addition, Europe-wide data for selected orders will be the basis of case studies of entire diffusion processes. Project duration: October 2015 to March 2019.