Lecture 3 – January 25, 2011
- The Spirit of Capitalism (SC)
- The Protestant Ethic (PE)
- PE + SC
Religious Rejections of the World
- What is the difference between capitalism and the spirit of capitalism?
o Capitalism is a free market that aims towards profit. A way of arranging economic
behavior so that it’s organized towards the systematic generation of profit, over and
over again without stopping.
o The Spirit of Capitalism is the set of attitudes and beliefs about what is important in life
that somehow connects you to constantly making profit over and over again. Historically
this is an unusual attitude to have. For example, this of the bible. The punishment that
Adam gets for sinning is having to labor and work. From the very beginnings the worst
thing that could happen is that you have to work, and so everyone would avoid it. The
point of life was not to work, but to enjoy the fruits of your work. The best scenario
would be to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s work.
Something happened relatively recently in which work was thought to be good.
- What is the Protestant Ethic?
o Protestantism is a system of theological beliefs about who god is, what god wants from
us and how were supposed to relate to god, what’s evil/good.
o The Protestant Ethic looks at how Protestantism affects your daily code of conduct. It’s
about this weird knowledge that nothing anyone could do or say could change your
beliefs. How do you live with that weird kind of knowledge and anxiety that leads to a
certain code of conduct which has tremendous consequences for how you operate on a
day to day basis. What ethic does Protestantism lead to?
- What is the spirit of Capitalism?
o Weber quotes Benjamin franklin.
o He’s trying to pull out the backgrounds and attitudes which are…. Industrialness and
being hardworking is a moral duty. Not being a credit or trust worthy person is not only
a bad idea, but it makes you a bad person. Not only is it a one-off thing; it’s something
you practice your entire life. This kind of attitude that Weber wants to stress Is that this
is a new line of thinking.
Stresses that by looking at modern vs. Adventure.
Franklin looks at the modern; shopkeepers work hard, they’re honest in their
dealings. Trying to make a little bit each day, and in the long haul it’ll all add up.
Calculating, long term.
Adventure capitalism is where people just try to get rich quickly. They do it (ie.
Texas oil tycoons; investing in the stock market) quickly, it’s not a methodical
earning of money, it’s get rich quick schemes.
- Why do we care about the SC?
o Weber was thinking about Marx when he answered this. Marx would say that people
have the duty to work, but who cares? That’s a mental cover for what’s really
happening. Rich people like capitalism, and poor people don’t, What matters is not who
says what, but rather who has property and who doesn’t. So the ….???
o What Weber’s response to this is by drawing a distinction between ideal and material
Weber is on the Ideal side. The ideal first appeared and found in people who do
not have a lot of property.
Ideal appeared among people who were not rich.
Rich didn’t have the spirit of capitalism.
o SO then where did SC come from?
It tends to be highly scientific. Modern
capitalism will almost always try to use
scientific knowledge for economic benefit
(ie. Printing press to get information out;
factories and railroads to increase
Book keeping, accounting; Accounting is a
recent invention where you have a book
keeping track of economic transactions so
that you can plan for the long term. You
apply this numeric, quantitative attitude to
your work so that you can act accordingly.
o Where does this economic
rationalism come from?
reformation. A religious
Think of the idea that
there are work day
consultants that you can
hire to tell you how to be
a more productive person
This is rooted in religion
(point 1). No one really
planned it. It’s not like
MLK and Calvin created
this reformation. There
were only religious
Side effects (work ethic
which in turns becomes
He charted where MC first
He thought it was in
protestant parts and
catholic parts of Europe
(which had little)
- In what way can aspects of our modern economic order be linked to the influence of the
o He lays out two things to answer this question.
Look for commonalities in the attitudes of the protestant ethics which
don’t need to necessarily be economical in nature. You see how they
cross over with the SC. When there’s an overlap, you’ll see how they
end up leading into one another.
Determine Degrees of Influence