A new book exposes Silicon Valley’s use of spiritual concepts and practices to optimise their workers’ productivity
Carolyn Chen is a sociologist and UC Berkeley professor who researches religion, race and ethnicity. Her new book, Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley, features in-depth interviews with employees and employers to explore how spirituality begets productivity in the world’s tech hub.
As a professor of religion, what sparked your interest in Silicon Valley?
I’ve studied Taiwanese immigrant evangelicals, evangelical Christians, Buddhists in their communities, but I think anyone who lives in a western industrialised country, in a metropolitan area, knows that religion is on the decline in terms of religious affiliation and religious participation. To me, it felt as if there was something missing if I was only capturing people who self-identify as religious. How do we see religion working in the world? What is the contemporary manifestation of religion? I was really interested in looking at the presence of religion in secular spaces.