The Protestant Ethic as a Driving Force of Capitalism According to Max Weber and His Book „the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”

Topics: Protestant Reformation, Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Pages: 17 (6017 words) Published: April 22, 2013
The protestant ethic as a driving force of capitalism according to Max Weber and his book „The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”

Maximilian Carl Emil "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and a political economist. His work on sociology of religion is probably what he is best known for. He was trying to understand how religion – may have an effect on economic ethics despite the fact that the two terms are rarely related. His first work on the subject “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” is probably the piece which has defined his career as a sociologist.

During the later half of the 19th century the world was beginning to experience rapid and fundamental changes. The Second Industrial revolution was rapidly reducing the cost of living, improving global life standards. Scientific breakthroughs and ideas were leading to a fast evolution of economical development while people like Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and George Mendel were redefining the very concept of man’s place in the world. People were beginning to precipitate the world around them in a different way and it was rapidly transforming – a process which saw it’s conclusion after the First World War.

During such a period when came out Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” in a world where the three biggest industrial powers (The British Empire; the United States of America; The Second German Reich) were protestant it is not hard to understand why he saw Protestantism as a factor for the prevalence of some countries over other.

Throughout his book, Weber emphasizes that his account is incomplete. He is not arguing that Protestantism caused the capitalistic spirit, but rather that it was one contributing factor. He also acknowledges that capitalism itself had an impact on the development of the religious ideas. The full story is much more complex than Weber's partial account, and Weber himself constantly reminds his readers about his own limitations. The book itself has an introduction and five chapters. The first three chapters make up what Weber calls "The Problem." The first chapter addresses "Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification," the second "The Spirit of Capitalism," and the third "Luther's Conception of the Calling and the Task of the Investigation." The fourth and fifth chapters make up "The Practical Ethics of the Ascetic Branches of Protestantism." The fourth chapter is about "The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism," and the fifth chapter is about "Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism."

The book is not a study of the Protestant movement in the Christian religion. It is more an observation of how the ideas it preaches have influenced Capitalism.

Protestantism began with The Protestant Reformation, also called the Protestant Revolt or simply The Reformation, which was the European Christian reform movement that established Protestantism as a constituent branch of contemporary Christianity. It was led by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other Protestants. The self-described "reformers" (who "protested") objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, and created new national Protestant churches. There were many smaller bodies as well. The most common dating begins in 1517 when Luther published “The Ninety-Five Theses”, and concludes in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended years of European religious wars.

Protestantism offers a concept of the worldly "calling," and gives worldly activity a religious character. While important, this alone cannot explain the need to pursue profit. One branch of Protestantism, Calvinism (established by John Calvin from whom the name of the movement derives), does provide this explanation. Calvinists believe in predestination--that God has already determined who is saved and who is damned. As Calvinism developed, a deep psychological need for clues about whether one was actually...
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