Weber - Protestant Ethic (Jan. 23).docx

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Political Science
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Joseph Wong

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Weber: Protestant Ethic  Why does the west become rich? o They stole it: imperialism o Problem: why didn’t they steal it from us first? o What are the origins of technological superiority? o Weather: warming up of Europe after 15 century? o Problem: why didn’t warm areas get rich first?  Max Weber o What was it about northwest part of Europe that made it unique? o Protestantism and capitalism o Weber wasn’t the first to do this: in fact, most social theorists were responding to Karl Marx  Protestant ethic o Published as two long articles in 1904 and 1905 o Protestant countries got rich first o Not merely a contemporary fact but a historical fact:  Tracing the association back, it can be shown that some of the early centers of capitalist development in the early part of the 16 century were strongly present o Ready explanation? Break with economic traditionalism produced a sloughing off of tradition and of religious institutions o But this interpretation does not stand up to scrutiny o Reformation not an escape from controls of the church o It involved a much higher degree of regulation of behavior than that which was demanded by Catholicism o Protestantism adopts a stringent attitude towards relaxation and enjoyment – especially renounced in Calvinism o Therefore: must look to specific character of Protestant beliefs if we are to account for connection between Protestantism and economic development o Weber’s originality is in arguing that usually people caught up with econ activity are indifferent or hostile to religion  Their actions are directed to material world; religion is directed to immaterial world o But Protestantism did not relax control of church over day to day activities but intensified it and demanded MORE rigorous discipline than Catholicism o Thus, injected a religious factor into all spheres of life of the believer  There is clearly a relationship between Protestantism and modern capitalism which cannot be whole explained by seeing the former as a “result” of the latter o Weber distinguishes other forms of capitalism as “economic traditionalism”  The attitudes toward labor are symptomatic of this  “A man does not ‘by nature’ wish to earn more and more money, but simply to live as he lives and as he is accustomed to live, and to earn as much as is required to do so” o Traditionalism is by no means incompatible with greed for wealth  “Absolute and conscious ruthlessness in acquisition has often stood in direct and close connection with the strictest conformity to tradition”  Selfishness found in all societies o This is quite different from modern capitalism, however, which is founded not on the amoral pursuit of gain but on the obligation to be productive o The concept of the “calling” only came into being at the time of the reformation  It is not found in Catholicism  It serves to bring the mundane affairs of everyday life within an all-embracing religious influence  The calling of the individual is to fulfill his duty to god through the moral conduct of his day-to-day life o This impels the emphasis of Prot
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