Unit 3: Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Summary)

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 03-03-13 18:33

Weber: Social Action (but influenced by Marx)

- Examined the relationship between Protestantism (Calvinism) and the development of Western industrial capitalism. <- After establishing a correlation between Calvinism and capitalism Weber then preceded to analyse what features and characteristics it embodies which could have implications for economic change and development.

- Found that Calvinists longed for a better life: the religion was that of a theodicy of predestination (God had already decided fate and predetermines everything).

- The best way to discover if they were among the elect was to obtain the assurance that came from righteous living.

This 'salvation anxiety' manifested itself in what has become known as the Protestant Ethic. The ethic is ascetic which among other things meant:

- An austere lifestyle

- Being morally pure; abstinence

- Avoiding self-indulgence

- Emphasis on making money and investing it rather than spending it

- Self-discipline and no idleness

Calvinism condemned activities such as singing, dancing, drinking alcohol and fornication.

- It was believed that the best sign that one was leading a righteous life was being successful in business- 'one's calling'.

- Idleness = sin

- Pursuit of material sucess- became charged with a sense of religious responsibility and was seen as evidence of divine favour.

Calvinist sources:

- John Browne: "The Godly and hardworking man shall have prosperity, but he that follows pleasures shall have much sorrow. Don't be too concerned about being popular and sociable- it can waste a lot of valuable time."

- Richard Baxter: "Even if you are called to the poorest labouring job, do not…


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