The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Review

Topics: Max Weber, Sociology, Protestantism Pages: 8 (2579 words) Published: June 18, 2013
Yiwan Ye
Soc. Theory University of Iowa
Spring 2013/Soboroff
Final Course Paper
25 March 2013

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is one of the most famous but controversial sociological works written by German Sociologist Max Weber. His theory on Protestantism and Capitalism hypothesize how Protestant Ethic derived from Christian faith substantially stimulated the Capitalism development in history. This article will present historical background of Weber and his theory about Protestant ethic. It also includes essential assumptions, original argument drawn from Weber’s theory and some potential fallacies found in Weber’s theory. This theory would be useful in investigating numerous societal inquiries. For instances, the growing of Protestants population could impose positive reinforcement on capital development; Whether Protestants who hold high socio-economic positions in society could promote the efficiency of the economy and overall wellbeing of the society. It also allows researcher to study some controversial questions - could Protestant faith becomes an effective tool to form Protestant-like work ethic in its Capitalism economic?

Theorist Background and the Unit Theory
Along with Marx and Durkheim, Marx Weber (1864-1920) is one of the most influential classic sociologists. Weber was born in Berlin, Germany. He enrolled in the University of Heidelberg in his eighteen, and attended the University of Berlin later. Even though he received education in law and history, Weber was fascinated with social sciences after his professorship. In his early academic life, Weber became an important scholar in economic and legal realm. Weber did not divert his attention from economics to the field of sociology until he underwent a serious psychological breakdown. The majority of Weber’s sociological works, including the Protestant Work Ethic, was written after this mental breakdown (Giddens and Parsons 8). In his last twenty years, Weber published The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1903), two methodological works- “Objectivity” in Social Science (1994) and Basic Sociological Terms (1914), and Economy and Society (1914). Weber’s works contain a wide range of topics, including studies of social structure, culture, economy, institutions, etc. Weber was also actively involved in politics. He was a solid supporter for German nationalism, which later found the German Democratic Party. Weber’s works not only strongly exerted influence in society during his life time, but also have tremendous impact on how sociologists and other social scientists perceive our society today.

In Protestants ethic and spirit of capitalism, Weber suggests Protestants ethos has positive correlation with the emergence and growth of capitalism. Supposedly, if Weber’s description about Protestant ethic is accurate, Protestant work ethic could be a critical factor that stimulates the Capitalistic development in America, making the United States one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Since aggregate economic development has substantial influence on our income, wealth, occupation selections and our general wellbeing, Protestant Ethic is a very intriguing theory that requires many researches and discussions, because religion, economy, and their interactions play an enormous role in the field of social sciences that might help people understand our society better.

Assumptions from the Unit Theory
Since Weber’s theory on Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism are based on real historical events, we need to understand historical circumstances that prompted the Protestant Reformation in 16th century before discussing Protestant work ethic. The Protestant Reformation is triggered by the prolonged conflict between Protestants and Catholic Churches in Europe. By definition, Protestants are members of Christian Church that deny the ultimate authority...
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