Religion as a force for change

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  • Religion as a force for change
    • Weber argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinism helped to bring about major social change.
      • It bought about the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe.
        • Modern capitalism is unique because it is based on the systematic, efficient, rational pursuit for profit for its own sake.
          • Weber calls this the spirit of capitalism.
            • This spirit is very similar to the Calvinists beliefs and attitudes.
        • Tawney argues that technological changes no religious ides first led to capitalism.
    • Calvinists beliefs include:
      • Predestination: god determines who will be saved even before birth - 'The elect' -  and individuals can do nothing to change this.
      • Divine Transcendence: God is so far above and beyond this world that no human being could possibly claim to know hi will.
      • Asceticism: self discipline and self denial.
      • The idea of a vocation or calling to serve God but in the everyday world of work.
    • Calvinism led an ascetic lifestlye shunning all luxury, working long hours and practising rigorous self discipline.
      • Driven by their work ethic, they systematically accumulated wealth wealth but did not spend it on luxuries, instead reinvesting it in their business to produce further profit.
      • They prospered and came to see this is a sign of God's favour and their salivation.
    • Weber argued that Calvinist beliefs were only one of capitalists causes.
      • Certain material or economic factor were necessary eg. natural resources.
        • There have been other societies with some of these factors, but where capitalism did not take off due to lack of a religious belief system.
          • Confucianism in ancient china, a religion that directed its followers towards the material world.


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