Weber: religion as a force for change

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  • Created by: Loulour
  • Created on: 02-06-15 13:10

What Weber says?

The Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism

  • argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinism helped to bring about major social change - the emergence of modern capitalism in Northern Europe.
  • Modern Capitalism is unique->
  • based on the systematic, efficient, rational pursuit of profit for its own sake, rather than spending it on luxuries.
  • This is the spirit of capitalism
  • This spirit had unconscious similarity to Calvinists' beliefs and attitudes.
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Calvinist Beliefs

  • Divine Transcendence - God is so far above everyone that no human being could possibly claim to know his will. Leaves Calvinists feeling 'an unprecedented inner lonliness'. Creates a salvation panic among Calvinists.
  • Asceticism - abstinence, self-discipline & self-denial.
  • Predestination - God predetermines who will be saved - 'the elect' - individuals can do nothing about it.
  • The idea of a vocation - or calling to serve god. In the everyday world of work, not a monastry. Calvinism invented this-worldly asceticism, where a vocation means constant, methodical work in an occupation.

Calvinists led an ascetic lifestyle: shunning all luxury, working long hours, practicing rigorous self-discipline

As a result:

1. Driven by their work ethic, systematically accumulated wealth, didn't spend it on luxuries, reinvested it in their business.

2. Prospered, saw it as a sign of God's favour & their salvation.

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Hinduism & Confucianism

Weber- calvanist beliefs are only one of capitalisms causes.

Certain material or economic factors are necessary, eg. natural resources, trade, a money economy, towns, a legal system etc.

Other societies with some of these factors, but where capitalism did not take off, due to the lack of a religious belief system like calvinism.

  • Hinduism - in acient india was an ascetic religion, but was other worldly - directing followers towards the spiritual world.
  • Confucianism - in acient china, although a this-worldly religion that directed its followers towards the material world, it was not ascetic.
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