Weber, the Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic

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The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, by M. Weber

I/ What is the spirit of capitalism?

According to Marx’s theory, labour is what define oneself in the world and give meaning to one’s life. Weber emphasized that theory when he published in 1904 “The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism”.

Contrary to what if often thought, capitalism is not an immoderate and immoral seek for money, but a rational and controlled way of doing business.
Profitability, which could be defined as the efficiency at generating earnings, is the mean purpose of the capitalistic state of mind. Limitless avidity is not a characteristic of the capitalism spirit but it often get confused with the need of profitability that motivates every action of capitalistic economy.

Capitalistic spirit can also be defined with a complete devotion to work and an instinct of acquisition. Thus, investment appears as a leading principle of capitalism, in the sense that it is meant to enable the investors to make more money than what he/she spent in the first place.

As we can see, the spirit of capitalism was not an inconsiderate race for money. Decisions are taken in order to reach a purpose, and actions are always led with control.

According to Weber, the spirit of capitalism, as old as humankind itself, was not carried out the same way in the world. He gave examples of various forms of business and trades all around the world that were characterized by greed, unscrupulousness or a lack of interest for money, and explained such dissimilarities with his studies about religion.

II/ How the protestant ethic spread this spirit

Three facts explain that the spirit of capitalism was spread by the protestant ethic.

First of all, Weber’s studies show that Protestant’s faith considers that labour is a way to promote the glory of God and to prove one’s devotion.

Second of all, Calvinism is of a utilitarian character, which means that an action will...
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