AQA SCLY3 Beliefs in Society - Weber: religion as a force for change

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  • Weber - Protestant Ethic
    • Weber
      • Religions exist because people need a system of basic beliefs to make sense of their existence and identity.
      • Religion provided people with a 'meaning' to life.
      • Argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinism helped to bring about major social change, especially the emergence of capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
      • Saw that the west developed capitalism due to the religions such as Judaism and Christianity supporting it.
    • Calvinism
      • Predestination
        • Their fate is already decided by God, but there is nothing you can do to change this. Caused an attitude of helpless fatalism/ resignation.
      • Divine transcendence
        • God is far above and beyond this world that no human could claim to know his will. Calvinists feel 'unprecedented inner loneliness' which creates a salvation panic among them.
      • Asceticism
        • Give up life's pleasures and encouraged devotion to work - self-discipline and self-denial.
      • The idea of a vocation
        • Calvinism invited this-worldly asceticism, where vocation means constant, methodical work in an occupation.
      • Due to their ascetic lifestyle, this resulted in:
        • Their accumulated wealth bring reinvested into their businesses to produce further profit.
        • They prospered and came to see this as a sign of God's favour and their salvation.
    • Criticisms
      • Kautsky - overestimates the role of ideas and underestimates economic factors in bringing capitalism into being.
      • Tawney - technological change and religous ideas caused capitalism. Only after this was when the bourgeoisie adapted Calvinist beliefs to legitmate the pursuit of economic gain.
    • For capitalism to develop, both normative and material conditions were needed. But due to lack of belief system like Calvinism these two examples didn't have capitalism
      • Hiduism
        • Ascetic religion but was other-worldly - directing followers towards the spiritual world
      • Confucianism
        • This-worldly religion that directed followers towards the material world, it was not ascetic.


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