Course Kit #18
Aspects of Economic Rationality In The West
By: Richard Bendix
A. The Spirit of Capitalism
-When a worker prefers less pay to more work.
- They seek a maximum of comfort and a minimum of exertion.
- They are unable or unwilling to adapt themselves to new methods of work.
- They work moderate hours and at a leisurely pace. -
They are satisfied with their earnings that give them a comfortable lifestyle. -
Individualism was alive and workers had personal relationship with each other, customers and
• Another form of traditionalism is greed. Southern Europeans andAsian descents are more
greedy that Englishmen.
• Gain has been pursued in a speculative manner.
• Work is considered a burden, but you avoid that by rewarding yourself and comfort yourself.
Work as now seen as success to materialistic conditions.
B. The Protestant Ethic
• Protestants were more ready than Catholics to choose high schools that fitted with the industrial
way of life.
• Sixteenth century, the wealthiest regions and cities turned to protestantism.
• Paradox:According to Weber, those who were intensely religious would usually reject any
economic affairs, where as those who were involved in economic pursuits differentiated with
• Purpose of “the protestant ethic,” is to explain how capitalism may have arose and to explain
how religious faith was transformed into rational pursuit of economic gain.
• During the Reformation economical activities were given spiritual and moral meanings.
• Protestants had their own ideas of what would happen in the after life. They would do anything
(work) to increase their chances of gaining salvation.
• Calvinist doctrine of predestination: God has your faith of heaven or hell determined from the
time you were created and nothing you do can change it.
• “Calvin had taught that one must find solace solely on the basis of true faith. Each man was
duty bound to consider himself the chosen and to reject all doubt as a temptation of the devil,
for the lack of self-confidence was interpreted as a sign of insufficient faith. To attain that self
confidence , unceasing work in a calling was recommended.” pg. 60
• They weren't allowed to have valuable/luxurious possessions because they would cause them to
relax. Only after the world beyond would they attain luxury.
• To prevent straying from their path, they would invest majority of their income back into the
economy. This gave capitalism a boost. • To waste time was a sin. To use time to talk, in sociability, excessive sleep and religious
contemplation at the expense of daily work was considered evil because it distracts from God's
will in the calling.
• Anything that was seen as something that would be pleasing for one'