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Lecture 9

EURO ST 10 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Protestant Work Ethic, Historical Materialism, Abstract And Concrete

European Studies
Course Code
John Smith

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Professor Smith
Europe Studies 10
Course Code: 24000
4 units
2018 Fall Quarter
Course Notes
The “Protestant Work Ethic”
It is our duty to work, even though our works don’t help toward salvation
We work to “subject” our bodily desires
We work for the sake of work
A special and paradoxical dynamic: we can’t do anything for salvation, but want a
sign that we are saved
And thus, given the great “despair” we have, we are driven to work, work, work
in the hope that it will be a sign that we are worthy of “riches”
“Spirit of Capitalism”
How ideas from the 16th century which have nothing to do explicitly with the
economy nonetheless can create a culture ripe for capitalism
Weber’s approach goes to the heart of what we’re investigating in this course:
how apparently distant historical ideas and phenomena helped shape our modern
There’s a good reason to learn about things like Lutheran theology, the holy
roman empire, the thirty years war
Max Weber
Founding father of sociology
Focused on interpretive approaches, not just empirical and quantitative
Dominant Theory: Marxism
Economic forces of production explain developments in society, law, culture
Economic “basis” vs ideological “superstructure”; ideas merely reflect economic
reality and the interests of the dominant class
“Economic determinism”
History = class conflict
Weber vs Marx(ism)?
“In the title of this study is used the somewhat pretentious phrase, the spirit of
Why “pretentious phrase”
“Spirit” seems like an abstract entity for a scientist to be interested in…
Yet certainly still a historical materialist or empirical scientist (2nd paragraph: “a
complex of elements associated in historical reality”)
So he will have to show that the “spirit of capitalism” is such a “complex of
elements associated in historical reality”
But, Weber rejects “naive historical materialism, that such ideas originate as a
reflection or superstructure of economic situations” (p.5)
“But the origin and history of such ideas is much more complex than the theorists
of the superstructure [=marxists] suppose” (p.5)
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