How and why does Weber seek to establish a connection between the Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?
Marx Weber was born on April 21, in 1864 in Germany, in a small city named Erfurt and died on June 1920. Actually Weber was not only an economist and a political scientist but also he was one of the three great founders of sociology, with Marx and Durkheim. Those three are known as the fathers of modern sociology. His family played a vital role in his whole life and had great influence on him as his father was a distinguished and well known lawyer and politician and his mother was a religious person who gave him support throughout his work and life. The time when Weber lived was one of the most important in the history of Germany. In 1871 all German states joined up in order to form Germany as a country, or the First Reich as it was known, with Prussia being the leader. It is also worthwhile to be said that after 1870 Germany saw a rapid industrialization taking place. This made it the greatest industrial power in Europe by 1900. All these socio-economical changes affected Weber’s writings.
Weber became a Law Lecturer at the University of Berlin in 1891 and in his early writings he did a work on Roman Agrarian History. It is observed through his work that he was a man who was affected by his spiritual and mental health at the time of writing his work. This can be clearly seen in 1897, which was a fatal point in his life, as he suffered by a nervous breakdown, following his father’s death. It took him about 5 years to recover from it. When he recovered he started writing with much eagerness and on 1904-1905 he issued his most popular piece of work that was named “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” (PSCE). They were two articles that caused great controversy and they demonstrate the relationship between Protestantism and economic ethics of the modern capitalist environment during the 17th century.
Weber’s interest on capitalism was greatly due on the situation that Germany was at the time. Industrialization in Germany came late and it happened quite differently that other European countries or the USA. It took place by the aristocrats and this caused Germany to be ruled by an authoritarian military state. Weber argued that Germany had problems because of the absence of revolution and as he wrote in his letters to Keyserling “a nation that has never the nerve to behead the traditional powers that will never… gain proud self-assurance”. It is said that Weber had two main aims when he was writing this book. Firstly, the establishment of a connection between patterns of belief and social actions. Actually, he wanted to see if our beliefs affect our actions. And secondly, he wanted to show that there was a connection between religion and commercial activity. He stated that “Instead of capitalism causing religion, religions actually caused capitalism” (Collins, R. 1986: 47). One of his main beliefs was that capitalism was largely shaped by religious forces and more specifically by Protestantism. Protestantism came as an alternative to Catholicism. In all over Europe many struggles and wars came about so that Protestants and Catholics could solve their differences. “The Protestants churches split into various factions” (Collins, R. 1986: 49) due to the political situation across Europe. In Switzerland radical forms of Protestantism emerged. In Geneva the Calvinist Protestantism was formed by John Calvin and Weber argued that Calvin was the person who had the greatest influence on the emergence of capitalism. At the time Weber was writing, capitalism was developed in Western Europe. The fact that Protestants were more economically successful than Catholics combined with the development of capitalism were showed by a well documented observation at the time. Weber was very curious to find a connection between them and the final result was his large thesis on “The Protestantic Ethic and the Spirit of...
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