Journal of Classical Sociology 2013 Scott 30 46

Topics: Sociology, Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Pages: 31 (9645 words) Published: April 20, 2015
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Classical Sociology
Capitalism as culture and statecraft: Weber− Simmel −Hirschman

Alan Scott
Journal of Classical Sociology 2013 13: 30 originally published online 5 December 2012 DOI: 10.1177/1468795X12461411
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461411
2012

JCS0010.1177/1468795X12461411Journal of Classical SociologyScott

Special issue article

Capitalism as culture
and statecraft: Weber–
Simmel–Hirschman

Journal of Classical Sociology
13(1) 30­–46
© The Author(s) 2012
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DOI: 10.1177/1468795X12461411
jcs.sagepub.com

Alan Scott

University of New England, Australia

Abstract
This paper offers a critical exposition and a comparison of the arguments of three key thinkers – Max Weber, Georg Simmel and Albert Hirschman – who rejected purely economic accounts of the development and nature of capitalism – whether Marxist or neo-classical – and sought to develop an account of capitalism as culture; as a form of life, conduct, an ethic, a system of ideas and ideals. Such approaches are characterized by (i) their emphasis on the resistance that capitalism faced, and continues to face; (ii) the examination of capitalism at the level of meaning and experience; and (iii) an interest in its institutional and cultural framing. Both the similarities and points of disagreement between these three accounts are discussed. Taking up David Frisby’s concern with Simmel’s politics – Frisby being the dedicatee of this special issue – the paper concludes by focusing on Simmel’s ‘sociological ambivalence’ in his analysis of the money economy as the source both of greater personal freedom and of the fracturing of personality and growing subservience to ‘objective culture’.

Keywords
Capitalism, culture, Hirschman, Simmel, sociological ambivalence, statecraft, Weber

The attempt to counter the claim that capitalism is to be understood primarily as an economic fact – whether as a ‘mode of production’ (Marxism) or ‘spontaneous order’ (neo-classical economics) – has produced some of the classics of social theory, from the Philosophie des Geldes (1900; enlarged edition 1907) and Die Protestantische Ethik und des Geist des Kapitalismus (1904/5; revised 1920), through Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation (1957 [1944]) and on to Albert Hirschman’s The Passions and the Interests (1997 [1977]). Perhaps one could go further and argue that a whole strand of sociological thought, which now goes under the name neo-institutionalism, is a response to the economic analysis – whether Marxist or neo-classical – of capitalism and transforms Corresponding author:

Alan Scott, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia.
Email: alan.scott@une.edu.au

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31

Scott

the criticism that such approaches are caught within what Polanyi called the ‘economic fallacy’ into an alternative and comprehensive analysis of the emergence and nature of market society.1 This latter perspective is characterized by (i) its emphasis on the resistance that capitalism faced ‘before its triumph’ (part of the subtitle of Hirschman’s 1977 classic), and indeed after it;...

Citations: http://jcs.sagepub.com/content/13/1/30.refs.html
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461411
(neo-classical economics) – has produced some of the classics of social theory, from the
Philosophie des Geldes (1900; enlarged edition 1907) and Die Protestantische Ethik und
des Geist des Kapitalismus (1904/5; revised 1920), through Karl Polanyi’s The Great
Transformation (1957 [1944]) and on to Albert Hirschman’s The Passions and the Interests (1997 [1977])
Email: alan.scott@une.edu.au
Downloaded from jcs.sagepub.com by guest on September 30, 2014
– albeit central – aspect of our ‘becoming modern’ (Pocock, 2009: 130). Underlying all
three aspects is the claim that capitalism is also culture: a form of life, a way of conducting ourselves (Lebenführung), an ethic, a system of ideas and ideals.
revaluation of certain key values rather than a ‘simple victory of one fully armed
ideology over another’ (Hirschman, 1997 [1977]: 11)
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