Religion as a force for social change - Weber

AQA sociology specification

Religion as a force for social change revision cards

Key points on Weber plus criticisms

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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)

In the west, capitalism was allowed to develop due to individual greed

John Calvin (1509-64) taught that everyones fate was chosen by God before they were born - some chosen for salvation and others for eternal damnation. No-one could determine which group they were in nor could they change or influence it.

Hard work was considered a 'calling' and the only way to worship God was through hard work. Anything that deviated from work was evil and a sin.

By encouraging people to work hard, it effectively meant that capitalism had enough reason to take root in society

Weber claimed that Calvinism was not the 'sole cause' of capitalism but religion could be used to shape the economy.

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When religion is used as a force for social change it can be revolutionary

Evidence that religion has brought about social change:

1. American Civil Rights - Martin Luther King made many inspirational speeches in order to gain followers often quoting parts of religious texts. 

2. Priests helped the poor by taking part in literacy programmes.

People tend to obey a religious leader due to the fact that they are charismatic, use traditional teachings and are based on legal grounds.

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Criticisms of Weber

1. Eisenstadt claimed that capitalism had already began to appear before the protestants adopted their strong work ethics

2. Even though calvinism taught that wealth and hard work was good, many other preachers taught the dangers of wealth

3. Weber accepts that it is not the only factor for social change

4. Aldridge points out that even though charismatic leaders can produce change it is difficult to maintain if the leader dies

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