Religion and social change


Religion and social change

Weber, Calvinism and the spirit of modern capitalism

  • Weber identified features of the calvinist protestant religion which he argued had the unintended consequence of playing a major role in kick-starting capitalism
  • Calvinism was a protestant religious movement from the 16th century
  • Two features Weber considered to be particularlt influential in the devlopment of capitalism: 
    • Ascetism- philosophy of self-denial. Idea that christians should lead an austere life, without luxuries
    • Predestination-  idea that it has already been decided who will go to heaven and who will go to hell and there is nothing you can do about this during your time on earth. Causes salvation panic, resulting in Calvinists looking for signs from God that they were among the elect, therefore, threw themselves into work
  • Because of ascetism it was business at which Calvinists might be succesful, when they were succesful instead of spending the moeny on luxuries, they reinvested their money into businesses
  • Capitalism

Evaluating Weber

  • Calvinism was not the only factor involved with the development of capitalism, significant but not the only factor
  • Capitalism occurred in places that there was no Calvinism (Roman Catholic Italy)
  • Places where Calvinism was very strong but no capitalism (Scotland)

Neo-Marxist views on religion and social change

  • Engels suggested that religion had a dual character and could act as a conservative force but it was also possible for it to challenge the status quo and encourage social change
  • Dual character is exemplified in Hinduism which was used as a powerful conservative…


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