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Capitalism – ‘’the most fateful force in our modern life’’ (p 17)
‘’capitalism is identical with the pursuit of profit and forever renewed profit”
Chapter 1. Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification
Notes current protestant dominance in capitalistic enterpreise, technical accomplishments
and in applied sciences. The protestant countries and regions of Europe – England, Holland
and germany – are more prosperous and modern than the catholic areas which are lagging.
Protestans outnumbered catholics in professional, technical fields etc.
Chapter II. The spirit of capitalism
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) as exemplar of the ‘’spirit’’ scientist, inventor, statesman,
entrepreneur had a strict Calvinist upbringing.
When you look at franklin he isn’t just promoting business tricks, what he is about is an
Offers an ‘’ethos’’ – a moralized notion of character and conduct not just business savvy or
cunning. Work and earn; avoid hedonic distractions and waste; diligence and sobriety.
Moralized, about making money the right way not maximize wealth. Live a certain way
with the right character. Not greed, greed is as old as human civilization
Franklin wrote Poor Richards Almanac(1732 – 58) 10 000 copies circulation famous sayings
“time is money “there are no gains without pains “get what you can and hold what
you get” “Sloth like rust consums faster than labour wears while the used key is
always bright” “money saved is money gained”etc.
Linking economic practices with moral character. By having this character you really
Comparison with Jacob Fugger (1459 – 1525) the great banker-merchant, who was asked
about retirement, answered: ‘’I just want to make money till I drop dead.’’ Had no ethos, no
moral world view jsutifing his economic activity as a higher thing.
Renaissance merchants – obtain riches and then live a lavish life-style, conspicuous
consumption, pleasure and leisure. Totall different of what Franklin was trying to advocate.
Wealth for them is simply a tool to obtain pleasure, status etc.
•The traditional devaluation of the merchant ‘’greedy for gain’’ sordid, dishonest,
vilgar. Merchant is not a producer, but the middle man. He links producers with
consumers. Bought low, sell high.
Chapter III Luther’s conception of the calling
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) a devout but troubles German monk
Nails his 05 theses on the power of indulgences on the door of the wittenberg church on
1517, thereby sparking the reformation movement
Luther was outraged that penances for sins committed had become a sordid business, a
sheer trafficking in money for sin.
The sale of indulgences – reduces penitential time in purgatory for $$ for masses for the
The viewing of holy relics and donations had become big business – annual displays brought
scores of pilgrims and worshippers. Can buy vials of the milk of the virgin, straw from the
manger of jesus, splinters from the Cross of the Crucifixation, the blood and bones of saints,
blood-stain cloth from famous martyrs, etc. All part of the Church’s ‘Treasure of Merit’
The Popes/church required considerable sums of money, to build magnificent churches,
salaries, charities, lavish life-styles of the high clergy (simony and the purchasing of clerical
office), wars, politics.
John Tetzel, a Dominican friar-preacher, a major seller off indulgences in Germany slogan
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the rescued soul from purgatory springs”
Tetzel has a price chart for various kinds of sins! One could even buy indulgences for future
Angered virtuoso heroics like Luther. Saw it as absolute corruption of the church.
Pope Leo X (son of Lorenzo the Magnificent) needed huge sims of the rebuilding of St.
Peter’s Basilica and other lavish patronage of the ars
Lutehr condemns this and the power of the pope (‘’if the pope has over over purgatory, he
should release those imprisoned now’’)
Writes On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1502), denounces Pope as anti-christ,
insists there are only 3 sacrements – Eucharist (return the cup to the people), baptism and
penance (requires individual faith alone)