Max Weber Protestant Work Ethic

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Behavioural Science
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Module: PSYC 6003

Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic
and its relevance to modern economics

Due Date: 18/04/12

Max weber’s Protestant work ethic
and its relevance to modern economics

While functionalism and Marxism discuss how religion is a conservative force in preventing social change, weber argued that sometimes, religion can cause social change. Marx and weber are upside down in relation to each others ideas. Marx believed that the economic system knowing as capitalism determined and shaped religion. Weber argued that it was the other way around. Sometimes religion can influence how the economy is organised. Weber was a social action theorist. He believed human behaviour is shaped by individual’s motives and desires. Weber talked about people having a world view. This is the idea or opinion, of the world that members of a community or society. Religion is often a very important part of a societies world view. So weber wanted to test out his idea, that religious beliefs can sometimes shape economic systems. “I ... want to register a protest against ... the proposition ... that anything, be it technology or economics, is the ... "ultimate" or "essential" cause of anything else. . . . The chain of causation ... runs sometimes from technological to economic and political, sometimes from political to religious and then to economic matters, etc. At no point do we come to a resting place.”(1)

Weber noticed that the western capitalism developed in particular European countries. He also noticed that these countries had followed Calvinist Protestantism. Calvinist saw their work was a calling from god. It was a moral duty. Calvinist believed in the elect. People chosen and predestined by god, before birth, to go to heaven. No matter how hard you worked on earth, if you were not one of the elect, you wouldn’t go to heaven. So how could this belief motivate people to work hard? “…deeply religious individuals who came from business families, especially in the seventeenth century, within the Calvinist diaspora of that time. In the light of these examples, he suggested an "affinity" between ascetic piety and active participation in economic life, or between the "spirit of work" and "progress"(2)

Lutheran Protestantism was a bit different. It believed that people could earn a place in heaven through good works on earth. This sounds a bit more like capitalist ideology perhaps. But the difference was that Lutheran Protestantism encouraged people to earn no more than they needed to surive.so there was no emphasis on making excess money or profits. “In his Braudelian social history of early modern Europe, George Huppert has presented the clash between the late medieval pursuit of holiness and the pursuit of profit as an uneven battle: ‘‘neither wars nor epidemics could stay its course. Moralists complained about the insidious effects of money, peasants rebelled against the pressures of a rudimentary capitalism, clerics thundered against usury...” (3)

Weber found another problem with Calvinist Protestantism. They didn’t know if they were part of the elect or not. This uncertainty led to them to work hard, not to earn them a place in heaven. They knew that was pointless. It was to convince themselves that they had been chosen to go to heaven. So this made them to feel like they behaved like the elect. “Calvin recognizes that God's decree of election necessarily has as its corollary His decree of reprobation -the condemnation of the reprobate, before they are even born. Calvin discusses the question raised by Paul in Rom. 9:14: "What then? Is there injustice [iniquitas] with God?" Rejecting the argument of a minority of medieval theologians, 38 that God chose the elect because He foresaw that they would be good…” (4) This was the protestant work ethic. This extreme work ethic led to the development of capitalism. Because as weber describes, the protestant had an...
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