Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of religion to social change (18 marks)

Topics: Max Weber, Protestant Reformation, Calvinism Pages: 3 (996 words) Published: October 27, 2013
Religion can be powerful under the right certain circumstances for social change. However it can be argued that religion can be a conservative force. Weber argues that religious beliefs contributed to major social change- specifically the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern capitalism differs from capitalism as it is based on systematic, efficient and a rational pursuit of profit and profit for its own sake rather than consumption. Weber calls this the spirit of capitalism. Calvinism is a form of protestant that was formed during the reformation. Weber argues that it is the Calvinist’s beliefs that helped bring about social change and modern capitalism. For example one of Calvinists beliefs is the idea of predestination; that God has predetermined which souls would be saved. The saved ones are called the elect and individuals could do nothing whatsoever to change whether they were part of the elect. Weber sees that this causes followers to have salvation panic; it was out of their control and knowledge whether they were saved or not, they could do nothing to earn their salvation. Another belief of Calvinists which they introduced is ‘other worldly asceticism’. The only thing Calvinist’s knew of God’s plan for humanity came from the Bible which revealed to them that they are on earth to glorify God’s name by working. Calvinists interpreted this as constant, methodical work in an occupation not in a monastery (other worldly asceticism). Due to Calvinist’s having a this worldly asceticism they worked hard long hours and practised rigorous self-discipline. This worked well as it rewarded them wealth and their success performed a psychological function for followers to cope with their salvation panic. Also due to their driven work force they accumulated wealth efficiently but did not allow themselves to spend it on luxuries. Instead they reinvested into their businesses which grew more and gained more profit...
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