On Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

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Drew Boyd10/16/2006
Question #3
Max Weber examines religion on a largely economic basis in his book, "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." In it, he details the transition of "asceticism and methodical habits out of the monasteries" and into the service of active life in the world. In early Christianity, there were no Protestant denominations, so Catholicism was tantamount to Christianity. Within the Catholic tradition, monks would live in communes called monasteries, and dedicate themselves to a life of asceticism and ritual lifestyles. Furthermore, the scriptures of the Bible were understood primarily by priests and monks. Lay people had little access to copies of the Bible, and as a result, their system of beliefs and their lifestyles were dictated largely by priestly interpretation. The transition of the monastic asceticism into the world took place with the Protestant Reformation, and more specifically, a monk named Martin Luther. Luther rebelled against the Catholic church, and began what is now known as the Protestant movement in Christianity, which represents a large number of denominations within its boundaries today. According to Weber, the Catholic church gave people assurance of salvation. After the Reformation, however, that security was lost for many people. Out of confusion, many people began looking for other "signs" that they had salvation. Money quickly became one such "sign." Hence, the Protestant reformation, and therefore, Protestantism itself, began an inextricable relationship with the earning of money. The best economic system of earning money is certainly Capitalism. Therefore, according to Weber, Protestantism became married to Capitalism. Certainly this is not the only link between Protestantism and Capitalism. The Catholic church, with its lavish expenditures and turning the blind eye to its members who do the same, certainly encouraged the accumulation of wealth in...
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