Andrew Chesnut’s Competitive Spirits is an ambitious book that draws upon an impressive array of research on religion in Latin America. Ranging in focus from Brazil to Mexico and many places in between, Chesnut develops a unifying argument that can help us make sense of Latin America’s celebrated religious complexity. He employs a set of economic metaphors to analyze the historical shift from Catholic monopoly to free and competitive religious marketplaces in Latin America. Chesnut maintains that this shift was a positive development, primarily because such competitive markets better meet the desires and preferences of religious consumers.

Addressing the full range of religious developments in contemporary Latin America would be difficult to accomplish under one cover. Accordingly, Competitive Spirits focuses on the “pneumacentric religions” — those whose practice is centered on contact with spirits — that have seen the most robust growth in...

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