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On the other hand, however, we have no intention whatever of maintaining such a foolish and doctrinaire thesis as that the spirit of capitalism (in the provisional sense of the term explained above) could only have arisen as the result of certain effects of the Reformation, or…
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Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905 Chapter III. Luther’s Conception of the Calling. On the other hand, however, we have no intention whatever of maintaining such a foolish and doctrinaire thesis as that the spirit of capitalism (in the provisional sense of the term explained above) could only have arisen as the result of certain effects of the Reformation, or even that capitalism as an economic system is a creation of the Reformation. In itself, the fact that certain important forms of capitalistic business organization are known to be considerably older than the Reformation is a sufficient refutation of such a claim. On the contrary, we only wish to ascertain whether and to what extent religious forces have taken part in qualitative formation and the quantitative expansion of that spirit over the world. Furthermore, what concrete aspects of our capitalistic culture can be traced to them, In view of the tremendous confusion of interdependent influences between the material basis, the forms of social and political organization, and the ideas current in the time of the Reformation, we can only proceed by investigating whether and at what points certain correlations between forms of religious belief and practical ethics can be worked out. At the same time we shall as far as possible clarify the manner and the general direction in which, by virtue of those relationships, the religious movements have influenced the development of material culture. Only when this has been determined with reasonable accuracy can the attempt be made to estimate to what extent the historical development of modern culture can be attributed to those religious forces and to what extent to others.
In “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Max Weber examines the part played by Protestantism in the evolution of Capitalism. After reading his arguments, it is evident that there are definitely “certain correlations between forms of religious belief and practical ethics.” It is Protestantism, as opposed to Catholicism, which gives religious sanction to one’s calling, or occupation in life, and asserts that worldly activity is worthy in the eyes of God. Weber makes this point particularly clear in his discussion of the Calvinist Baxter’s works in Chapter V. Baxter holds that the activity of daily work is the best way to glorify the Lord. Idleness is condemned, while physical and mental activity is associated with divine grace. Baxter’s stand on specialization in a particular occupation, or division of labor, as a means of improving the quality and quantity of products, is definitely a precursor of capitalistic guidelines to increase profits. The Puritan ethic equates a man’s occupation with ascetic virtue. The most important link between Calvinism and the essential principles of capitalism is the approval granted to the pursuit of profit. The acquisition of wealth is considered an expression of divine favor. Holding several occupations, and changing one’s occupation, is justified in Calvinism. Max Weber clearly succeeds in tracing “some concrete aspects of our capitalistic culture” to Protestant ethics, particularly to Calvinism. His argument that religious movements have contributed to the development of modern capitalism is sound. The basic tenet of capitalism is the pursuit of profit. Protestantism’s sanction of labor as pleasing to God, and material success as a sign of God’s favor, evidently form a strong religious basis for the pursuit of profit in one’s occupation. Weber clearly establishes his link between Capitalism and Protestantism, as he sets out to do in the passage from Chapter III. Read More
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