Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Refers, in the theoretical structure of Stark and Bainbridge (1987), to an aspect of the controlling mechanism of human bondage. The other dimensions of social binding, according to Stark and Bainbridge, are attachment, involvement, and belief.

The concept of investments , however, marks the most unique contribution of their "rational choice" theory within the social scientific study of religion. Investments are costs borne in lasting relationships that have not yet yielded their rewards fully. The standard example in religion is formed by the person living a righteous life to achieve salvation. Living righteously means that the person forgoes all kinds of short-term rewards (that is, bears costs) for an uncertain long-term reward. Investments form a mechanism of social binding, and, accordingly, high current investments may form a barrier toward exiting the religious group.

Durk H. Hak


R. Stark and W. S. Bainbridge, A Theory of Religion (New York: Lang, 1987).

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