Weber believed that religious beliefs of the Calvinists helped bring about major social change, especially the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe in the 16th/17th Century. Leading to the process of industrialisation.
Weber noticed that past societies had capitalism in the sense of greed for wealth, which was often spent on material goods. However modern capitalism he believed was unique, in that it was based on the pursuit of profit for its own sake rather than consumption.
This is known as the spirit of capitalism which he believed was similar to the Calvinists' beliefs.
Predestination- Calvinists believed God had predetermined which souls will be saved (the "elect") and which would not. This was determinded before birth and individuals could do nothing to alter it.
Divine transcendence- They believed God was so far above and beyond this world that no one could claim to know him, even priests. This left Calvinists feeling "an unprecedented inner loneliness". When combined with the predestination this created salvation panic as they didn't know if they were going to be saved, and if they weren't there was nothing they could do about it.
Asceticism- Refers to abstinence. E.g. refraining from luxury, living a simple life, avoiding excess in order to devote themselves to God.
The idea of a vocation or calling- Before Calvinism a religious vocation was considered to be renouncing everyday life to join a monastery or convent. Calvinists knew God's plan came from the Bible which stated that we were put on this Earth to glorify God's name by our work.
Calvinists therefore interpreted this as constant methodical work not a monastery. So they worked long hours and shunned luxury. When they became wealthy and successful they took this as a sign of God's favour helping them to cope with salvation panic. With their profits they put it back into the business showing the spirit of capitalism by earning money for the sake of money.
- Eisenstadt argued that the first great surges of capitalism occurred in Catholic Europe before the protestant reformation.
- Tawney society had already changed radically, in a capitalist direction, before Calvinism. Calvinism was the religious justification for capitalism.
- Weber misunderstood other religions ans failed to recognise the elements in them which could have supported the rational economic action.e.g. The Jews were openly interested in profit, competition and proved formidable business competitors.
- Scotland had Calvinist beliefs but did not develop industrialisation until later on.
- Turn to capitalism out of need as people may have been refused a lot of jobs. e.g. migrants turn to entrepreneurial options.
Stark and Bainbridge
Religion as a compensator
Religion compensates people for all the hardships of life. Everyone will at some point face hardship, e.g. death, financial worries, relationship problems etc, and only religion can help and compensate you for that.
Therefore, religion will always be needed and there will never be complete secularisation.
- Other things may be compensators e.g. friends, media, family, science, therapy or even drugs.
- If religion is needed why is society becoming secular?