March 19 2014
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Weber is trying to tell us something about the relationship between the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit
Asimple idea is that if you take God, and religious concerns away from the Protestant, the very core
is similar to the core of what it takes to be a good capitalist.
How does he present this? All of his methodological concerns are represented in the book
Verstehen: understanding, the whole book is an exercise in verstehen, requesting the reader to take
the point of view of the Protestant. He invites us to be thinking about these historical actors by
creating an ideal type of them.
Ideal Type: It is an exaggerated type, a stereotype. Focus on predestination. Once he gives you a
stereotype is becomes an object you try to understand.
Multicausality: Steps outside and becomes more of a macro sociologist at the end of the book.
He’s not trying to say this is the only explanation, acknowledges what Marx would say, and he
argues that it has to be a bit of everything
Objective possibility: Uses it to makes a compelling argument about the importance of a historical
event. When he talks about India and China he is asking if the development of modern capitalism
would have occurred without the Protestant Reformation. He says let’s think about what would
happen without this by looking at India and China. They didn’t develop capitalism because their
religious and value orientations were other-worldly. In India and China they were oriented to the
next life, not this life and by implication if the protestant ethic had not happened we would have
been left with Catholicism which has the same mentality. Weber argues that it is the this worldly
emphasis that is a critical factor in the consciousness of human beings.
Social action (big theme in the book): most sociologists see Weber laying the foundation for a
larger sociology, a sociology that extends itself far beyond the specific topic of the protestant
ethic, They argue that contained in this book is the description of a cultural force that comes to
dominate modernity. Weber has 4 types of action but in this book he primarily uses value
rationality -> Means-ends rationality. The ideal type of Protestantism is value-action rationality.
They can vary many of the things they do as long as the ends of their actions are oriented towards
pleasing God. All things must be consistent with their religious calling. Whole life is about
serving God, if you have any success it is put right back into The Calling.According to Weber the
ends (God) starts to disappear. After God becomes less important, what takes it’s place? This is
where meansends rationality begins. In the growth of capitalism people are still working really
hard and being ve