The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
In “The Protestant Ethic and the 'Spirit' of Capitalism,” Max Weber explores the relationship between certain religious characteristics of Protestantism and the. Study terms for first Sociology Quiz Learn with flashcards, games, and more — for free. It is defined as "the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience elaborated in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Perfect prep for The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism quizzes and the relationship between the concept of a "calling" and the fate of traditionalism?.
He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides.
Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding feline taint, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.
Weber notes that this is not a philosophy of mere greed, but a statement laden with moral language. Indeed, Franklin claims that God revealed the usefulness of virtue to him. A common illustration is that of a cobbler, hunched over his work, who devotes his entire effort to the praise of God.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
To emphasize the work ethic in Protestantism relative to Catholics, he notes a common problem that industrialists face when employing precapitalist laborers: Agricultural entrepreneurs will try to encourage time spent harvesting by offering a higher wage, with the expectation that laborers will see time spent working as more valuable and so engage it longer. However, in precapitalist societies this often results in laborers spending less time harvesting.
Laborers judge that they can earn the same, while spending less time working and having more leisure. He also notes that societies having more Protestants are those that have a more developed capitalist economy.
To view the craft as an end in itself, or as a "calling" would serve this need well. This attitude is well-noted in certain classes which have endured religious education, especially of a Pietist background. In order that a manner of life well adapted to the peculiarities of the capitalism… could come to dominate others, it had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated individuals alone, but as a way of life common to the whole groups of man.
After defining the "spirit of capitalism," Weber argues that there are many reasons to find its origins in the religious ideas of the Reformation. This recognition was not a goal in itself; rather they were a byproduct of other doctrines of faith that encouraged planning, hard work and self-denial in the pursuit of worldly riches.
However, the Reformation had effectively removed such assurances. From a psychological viewpoint, the average person had difficulty adjusting to this new worldview, and only the most devout believers or "religious geniuses" within Protestantism, such as Martin Lutherwere able to make this adjustment, according to Weber.
In the absence of such assurances from religious authority, Weber argued that Protestants began to look for other "signs" that they were saved. Calvin and his followers taught a doctrine of double predestinationin which from the beginning God chose some people for salvation and others for damnation.
The inability to influence one's own salvation presented a very difficult problem for Calvin's followers.
It became an absolute duty to believe that one was chosen for salvation, and to dispel any doubt about that: So, self-confidence took the place of priestly assurance of God's grace. Worldly success became one measure of that self-confidence. Luther made an early endorsement of Europe's emerging divisions.
Weber identifies the applicability of Luther's conclusions, noting that a "vocation" from God was no longer limited to the clergy or church, but applied to any occupation or trade. Weber had always detested Lutheranism for the servility it inspired toward the bureaucratic state. When he discussed it in the Protestant Ethic, he used Lutheranism as the chief example of the unio mystica that contrasted sharply with the ascetic posture. Later he would associate "Luther, the symbolic exponent of bureaucratic despotismwith the ascetic hostility to Eros — an example of Weber's sporadic tendency to link together bureaucratic and ascetic modes of life and to oppose both from mystical and aristocratic perspectives.
According to the new Protestant religions, an individual was religiously compelled to follow a secular vocation German: Beruf with as much zeal as possible. A person living according to this world view was more likely to accumulate money. The new religions in particular, Calvinism and other more austere Protestant sects effectively forbade wastefully using hard earned money and identified the purchase of luxuries as a sin.
Donations to an individual's church or congregation were limited due to the rejection by certain Protestant sects of icons. Finally, donation of money to the poor or to charity was generally frowned on as it was seen as furthering beggary.
This social condition was perceived as laziness, burdening their fellow man, and an affront to God; by not working, one failed to glorify God. The manner in which this paradox was resolved, Weber argued, was the investment of this money, which gave an extreme boost to nascent capitalism.
The Protestant work ethic in Weber's time[ edit ] By the time Weber wrote his essay, he believed that the religious underpinnings of the Protestant ethic had largely gone from society. He cited the writings of Benjamin Franklinwhich emphasized frugality, hard work and thrift, but were mostly free of spiritual content.
Weber also attributed the success of mass production partly to the Protestant ethic. Only after expensive luxuries were disdained could individuals accept the uniform products, such as clothes and furniture, that industrialization offered.Max Weber and the Protestant Ethic
In his remarkably prescient conclusion to the book, Weber lamented that the loss of religious underpinning to capitalism's spirit has led to a kind of involuntary servitude to mechanized industry. The Puritan wanted to work in calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order.
This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force.
Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In contrast, the followers of Arminius thought that each individual could hope to gain salvation by repenting his sins and by asking God to bestow his Grace. From the great revivals of the s steadily until the Great War, this great divide began to dissipate.
Nevertheless, the old disputes limped on, still quite strenuously among Ulster Presbyterians who fought a bitter if obscure theological battle over church music. They made no mention of individuals turning to or putting trust in God, and no mention of predestination.
Calvin established a new kind of saintliness for merchants and artisans living first of all in Geneva, but later in London, Amsterdam and Edinburgh and then further afield. The piety of the Calvinists had strong echoes of an older piety found in the best of the monasteries. Like the monks, the life of a dutiful Calvinist was one of hard work and diligence, frugality and seriousness with little frivolity.
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Since everything was pre-ordained, this life of obedience and frugality could not be hoped to bring salvation. Calvinism also claimed the right of the Elect to rule over the non-Elect in a theocratic political system. The monks, in pursuing pious obedience, poverty and chastity had inadvertently made their houses and their orders rich.