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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of…
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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Norton Critical… (original 1904; edition 2008)

by Max Weber, Richard Swedberg (Editor)

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3,140131,787 (3.85)19
Member:ftlimpoco
Title:The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Norton Critical Editions)
Authors:Max Weber
Other authors:Richard Swedberg (Editor)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2008), Paperback, 312 pages
Collections:Science and Society
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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber (Author) (1904)

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This early book was Weber's great mistake. It is an assembly of failures in method, including confusing cause and effect. It is a case study in how not to do social science. Fortunately he recovered from this early failure. ( )
  johnclaydon | Apr 17, 2016 |
Weber's sociological magnum opus on the relationship between Protestantism, specifically Calvinism and Puritanism, and the development of the capitalistic spirit in the West.

He goes through all of his evidence thoroughly; between the text and the notes it is often easy to feel lost in the ocean of detail in terms of the history of the Protestant sects he describes. The evidence is necessary to develop and support his thesis: at least part of the story of the development of captalism as the defining ethos of the West involves the idea of one's job as a calling, the distinction between the pursuit of wealth for greed or vanity and wealth gained based on effective labor as a sign of God's favor and thus surety of election, and the approval and blessing of the latter, essentially "God helps those who help themselves".

One of those books you just have to read. ( )
1 vote deusvitae | Feb 23, 2015 |
For years we have been assaulted by politicians and religious leaders preaching the Christian "work ethic," yet I find little justification, if any, for the concept anywhere in the New Testament. I happened to be discussing this with my dad a while ago, who also happens to be one of the smartest people I know, and he recommended Weber’s book. First published in 1905, it provoked considerable controversy.

Weber's thought was grounded in a belief that history is of critical portance to the social sciences and that material factors had enormous influence upon the course of history — I didn't know any of this, I'm stealing it from the introduction. Weber was very critical of Marxism, but shared with Marx a concern for the evolution of industrialism capitalism. In the first few chapters, Weber defines what he means by capitalism. It's not just the pursuit of wealth that has been common to numerous cultures, but is an activity associated with the rational organization of formally free labor (his italics). Capitalism requires an organized labor force and a ready source of investment capital. Some of these factors were not present in Hindu and Confucian societies. Hinduism, in particular its tradition of caste, prevented the ready organization of the labor force. Also, its emphasis on asceticism focused toward the otherworldly and afterlife, and tended to accentuate the non-material. Trade was highly developed in China as in India, but Confucianism permitted a more material focus. The Calvinist ethic combined Judaism's "ethical prophecy" that encouraged emulation of the prophet with the eastern traditions to form a philosophy of reformation, i.e. achieve salvation through reforming the world by means of economic activity.

The development of the Western city was also important because they provided the foundation for political autonomy and the creation of a bourgeois society. Eastern civilizations were hampered by strong kinship relationships that crossed the agrarian-urban boundaries which tied the cities more firmly to an agrarian tradition. The problem that Weber articulates is that the Puritan wanted to work in a calling, for his salvation. That "work ethic" was harnessed by capitalism because we have to work, the sale of our labor being the only means to material satisfaction.

( )
3 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Even now, this is a profoundly interesting and detailed book, being the foundation of economic sociology, and is of considerable use today.

The main thesis is that several Christian denominations, mainly Calvinists, etc., believed that economic and social prosperity has a religious basis - that God has bestowed the gifts of success to these people, and therefore this should be imitated. Hence the Protestant Work Ethic - a religiously sanctioned form of capitalism.

As the prominence of religion waxed and waned in the centuries after reformation, and organized churches played less of a role in public life, the spirit of this work ethic still remained in many Anglo-Saxon countries. Of course, this Protestantism was not the only factor, but Weber theorizes it as the foremost factor.

It's interesting to see how parts of this doctrine have mutated into parodies of their past selves, with the 'prosperity gospel' preached by some, the link between religion and capitalism in modern America, among other outreaches.

Although some of the connections between events are rather tenuous, it is still very interesting to think about, and one crucial to modern economic, historical, and sociological debate. ( )
2 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
When feudalism broke down in the Late Middle Ages, Weber argues, the capitalism that emerged in its place was an entirely new ethos, accompanied by a peculiar Puritan ethic that dignified the accumulation of wealth as a sign of divine favor. The "spirit" of capitalism was distinct from the impulse to acquisition, which was nothing new in the 16th century. It was the pursuit of perpetually-renewed profit, for its own sake, above and beyond the satisfaction of traditional human needs. But what was driving this pursuit of perpetual profits? The religious concept of "calling," says Weber, the idea that worldly activity is morally good if it is what God has called us to do. This concept contrasted with earlier Christian renunciation of worldly affairs in favor of monastic contemplation of God.

Just as worldly wealth was a sign of God's favor, poverty became shameful, indicating rejection of God's calling. The unequal distribution of the goods of this world was ordained by God's inscrutable Providence, said Calvinists. Therefore charity became meaningless, in sharp contrast to the teachings of St. Paul, who called it the greatest of virtues. Said John Wesley, "We must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and to save all they can; that is, in effect, to grow rich." Said Jesus, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." Is there a disconnect between Calvinist Protestantism and the teachings of Jesus? You decide.

The socio-economic preconditions for capitalism existed in other parts of the world, argues Weber; why did it arise only in the Protestant West? His thesis has long been controversial, but its relevance to current events makes it worthy of consideration. ( )
1 vote pjsullivan | Feb 8, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (56 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Weber, MaxAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Estruch Gibert, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giddens, AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalberg, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parsons, TalcottTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tawney, R.H.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 041525406X, Paperback)

Max Weber's best-known and most controversial work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1904, remains to this day a powerful and fascinating read. Weber's highly accessible style is just one of many reasons for his continuing popularity. The book contends that the Protestant ethic made possible and encouraged the development of capitalism in the West. Widely considered as the most informed work ever written on the social effects of advanced capitalism, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism holds its own as one of the most significant books of the twentieth century. The book is one of those rare works of scholarship which no informed citizen can afford to ignore.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:59 -0400)

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The Protestant ethic - a moral code stressing hard work, rigorous self-discipline, and the organization of one's life in the service of God - was made famous by sociologist and political economist Max Weber. In this brilliant study (his best-known and most controversial), he opposes the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism and its view that change takes place through "the struggle of opposites." Instead, he relates the rise of a capitalist economy to the Puritan determination to work out anxiety over salvation or damnation by performing good deeds - an effort that ultimately discouraged belief in predestination and encouraged capitalism. Weber's classic study has long been required reading in college and advanced high school social studies classrooms.… (more)

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