The Protestant Ethic And The S Essay

This essay has a total of 2929 words and 14 pages.

The Protestant Ethic And The S


'How did the Calvinists beliefs relating to worldly asceticism and predestination,
encourage the development of Western capitalism, in Webers view.';

In this essay, I am first going to briefly look at Webers idea
and how it differed form the view Marx put forward on the development of Western
capitalism. I am then going to look at the way Weber saw 'occidental'; capitalism
differing from 'other'; types of capitalism. After this I will touch upon what Weber
described as the 'spirit of capitalism';. I will then proceed to explain what effect
predestination and worldly- asceticism had an on a Protestant and his calling, and how
this therefore encouraged the development of Western capitalism; in Webers view. After
this I will look at the evidence Weber used to back up his idea, as well as the criticisms
made against his work. I will also assess the methodological method used by Weber in his
analysis; and finally, I will finish with a conclusion to sum up this essay.


Marx in his study of Western capitalism; saw it developing from a struggle between two
forces, mainly feudalism and early capitalism(1). However, having studied Marx's ideas(2),
Weber put forward a different analysis to describe the development of Western capitalism.
Weber instead put forward an idea which did not seek to replace Marx's idea as a spiritual
alternative(ibid), but was to give a different angle of how capitalism may have developed
in the West. This idea was based on a coincidence which Weber believed exhisted between
the owners of capital and Protestantism, as explained below;

'Business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labour,
and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern
enterprises, are overwhelmingly Protestant.';(ibid)


Therefore Weber set out an investigation to find why most business men were Protestant,
and thus possessed a large amount of capital, which Weber describes as the 'elective
affinity'; (3); as shown in his following statement;

'We are dealing with the connection of modern economic life(Occidental capitalism) with
the rational ethics of ascetic Protestants.';(ibid)


It is when Weber did his research that he came to the following conclusion; that the way
of life for Protestants(specifically the followers of Calvinism), probably encouraged the
development of Western Capitalism. Weber defined capitalism as being; 'the pursuit of
profit and forever renewed profit.';(ibid) Weber saw this form of capitalistic enterprise
as existing in many parts of the world, however Weber argued that the west(or the
occident) had its own peculiar form of capitalism, which was in some respects different to
the 'other'; forms of capitalism.


Weber believed capitalism had different forms(ibid); firstly, capitalism could be of an
adventurous nature, with pirates, speculators, and war funders taking individual
opportunistic actions to make a profit.(ibid) Secondly, Weber describes a similar type of
capitalism which exhisted in India, China, Babylon, and Egypt. Weber saw this to encourage
rational calculation to some extent, however as before a large emphasis was placed on the
individual to make a profit. Only after a while did the merchants undertaking such
capitalist enterprises decide to continue ongoing operations and establish some sort of
cohesion to their business's.(ibid)


Thirdly, Weber identified occidental capitalism; which he believed first developed in
western Europe and North America. Weber saw this being encouraged by the cultural and
social thought of the time, which was based around the idea of 'rationalism';. This is
described through examples of the type of science(method of investigation), art,
architecture, jurisprudence, and bureaucratic government the West in general had(ibid).
Therefore western capitalism was just another link to this chain.


Weber found 'Occidental'; capitalism to be different from the 'other'; forms in many
respects, as I am now going to show. Firstly there was a lack of free labour in the
'others'; system. Secondly, household work and business work were not separated, as in the
west. Personnel property was kept apart from corporate property, rational book-keeping
techniques were used, and a rational legal and administrative system exhisted, which Weber
believed played a role to limit speculative and opportunistic capitalism. Finally Weber
also acknowledged the role of technical advancement in playing its part to encourage the
development of Occidental capitalism.(ibid)


However in spite of these factors, Weber believed that Protestant beliefs were still the
main driving force behind the development of Western capitalism. For Weber these beliefs
also led to a particular 'geist';(ibid.), which he believed was identified in the writings
of Benjamin Franklin;

(a) 'Remember that time is money.';
(b) 'Remember that credit is money.'; (ibid)

This 'spirit'; of capitalism was seen as an ideology which many people in the west now
included in there character. Weber in his analysis, identified two main characteristics in
the Protestants belief, which he believed were important in encouraging the development of
Western capitalism. These were the beliefs of predestination(which Weber saw as being the
Calvinists 'most characteristic dogma';ibid) and worldly asceticism, which are described
to encompass the 'Protestant ethic';, and there effect on the Calvinists calling(ibid). In
looking at predestination, Weber believed that a concept such as this must have
psychologically produced anxiety and panic in the Calvinist. This was since the Calvinist
believed that as soon as he was born, God had already mapped out his life, in this world
and the hereafter, which he could do nothing about. Weber used the following exerts from
Calvin's ideas to prove this;


'Some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life, and others ordained to everlasting death.';(ibid)

'Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God before the foundation had laid.';(ibid)

'All those who God had predestined unto life.';(ibid)


Weber saw such beliefs as creating a psychological(ibid) state of mind and 'inner
loneliness';, which would affect the Calvinists actions. The uncertainty(ibid) of the
Calvinists fate, must have led them to look for signs to what there future was going to
entail. For Weber these signs were to be found in ones life: therefore if a Calvinist
found himself to be successful in worldly terms, then surely this was a sign that Gods
favour was upon you. Whereas if you lapsed in to sinful behaviour then this must be a sign
that the Calvinist was damned. In short Weber found the Calvinists had an enormous
pressure to lead a disciplined, righteous, and successful life, where success could be
seen in terms of money.(ibid)


In looking at the idea of worldly asceticism; Weber found this to create a rigid way of
life for the Calvinist(ibid), who therefore worked very hard in his 'calling'; and was not
able to spend any of his wealth on anything which led to worldly pleasure; such as
clothes, theatre, houses being done well, and anything material which did not have a use.
Time wasting, sexual pleasures, gossiping were all frowned upon; sport and re-creation
were accepted but only in the gaining of fitness and health;


'This worldly asceticism, as we recapitulate up to this point, acted powerfully against
the spontaneous enjoyment of possessions; it restricted consumption especially of
luxuries.';(ibid)


'Asceticism was the power 'which ever seeks the good but ever creates the evil'; what was
evil in its sense was possession and its temptation.';(ibid)


Instead the wealth was to be saved, and only spent in the 'Glory of God';(bid); for Weber
this then led the Calvinists to make profits, which were not spent on many things, but had
to be re-invested back in to the business. Weber described this in his following writing;


'When the limitations of consumption is combined with this release of acquisitive
activity, the inevitable result is obvious; accumulation of capital through an ascetic
compulsion to save. The restraints which were imposed on the compulsion of wealth
naturally served to increase it, by making possible the productive investment of
capital.';(ibid)


Protestants in general were seen to prohibit any type of enjoyment or recreation which
distracted the believer from the remembrance of God. For the believer such an ascetic
lifestyle was to provide comfort that he was not committing sin, and hence not going to
hell. Weber found such ideas on worldly asceticism and predestination, and there effect on
the Calvinists calling, played a vital role in developing western capitalism.(ibid)


I am now going to look at the evidence which Weber used to back up his argument. In
looking at predestination, Weber first saw this as being the Calvinists 'most
characteristic dogma';. Weber used the following writing of Calvin to use as evidence of
the doctrine;
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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