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Included here under Fair Use Doctrine for teaching purposes. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: Criticisms of Weber's Thesis by Sandra Pierotti Max Weber's theory of the part which Protestantism, specifically Calvinism, played in the development of a spirit of capitalism in western Europe has had a profound effect on the thinking of sociologists and historians since its publication in Many historians value its application of social theory to historical events and praise it for its attempt to explain why capitalism thrived in Europe and subsequently the United States and not as much in other places.
Immanuel Wallerstein, for instance, drew heavily on Weber for explanations of the growth of capitalism into the modern economic world-system in his classic three volume work, The Modern World-System. The criticisms of Weber's hypothesis have helped keep his ideas at the forefront of social theory.
The repercussions have echoed throughout the academic world for almost years and continue today. I cannot begin to cover all of Weber's critics in the course of this paper, but I will present some representative criticisms of the theory. Weber hypothesized that capitalism was a product of the western mind for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the Protestant Ethic.
The Protestant Ethic spawned and encouraged what Weber called the "spirit of capitalism.
It is, in fact, the essence which underlies the economic system. During the long 16th century, this spirit became embodied in European society and provided the impetus for capitalism to emerge as the dominant economic system in the world.
For Weber, capitalism was more than simply an accumulation of wealth. It had in roots in rationality. In fact, Weber insisted that capitalism was the triumph of rationality over tradition. Explicit in his view of capitalism were a disciplined labor force and the regularized investment of capital.
Weber asserted that this combination took place only in Europe and most strongly in Protestant nations, such as England, Holland, and Germany, where there were influential groups of ascetic Protestant sects.
Weber was influenced by the writings of Benjamin Franklin, in which he saw early indications of the spirit of capitalism before there was a capitalistic order in the American colonies. Weber quoted Franklin early in his work and based many of this ideas on Franklin's writings: For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.
He that spend a groat a day, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds. He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.
He that idly uses five shillings worth of time, loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea. He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantages that might be made by turning it in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount of a considerable amount of money.
Weber then said, "Truly what is here preached is not simply a means of making one's way in the world, but a particular ethic It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos.
In their article, "In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism: They deny that Franklin was preaching a Protestant work ethic and assert that all Franklin was saying was that if a person is interested in being successful in life and commerce, here are some virtues to follow.
Dickson and McLachlan conclude with a clear statement of their criticism of Weber's hypothesis: It seems clear to us that Weber misinterprets Franklin and that the latter was not imbued with the ethos which Weber attributes to him.
It is not in dispute that a methodological lifestyle is conducive to the accumulation of wealth. What is at issue concerning Weber's Protestant Ethic thesis is the impetus for such a lifestyle. Weber's misinterpretation of Franklin does not in itself invalidate his methodol ogy or his Protestant Ethic thesis.
Nonetheless, it does suggest a rather cavalier attitude towards evidence, particularly as the writings of Franklin are the only 'evidence' that he presents in his original essays to demonstrate the existence of the 'spirit of capitalism'.
Most of the other criticisms of Weber rest on his assertion that modern capitalism could not have flourished in Europe without an ethic or spirit which had its roots in ascetic Protestantism. These criticisms themselves fall into two major categories: He states that Weber's assertion that the concept of the "calling" was novel to Luther and Protestantism was not established in Weber's writings.
Robertson supports his thesis by quoting Aquinas: Thomas Aquinas' teaching on distributive justice was that:Weber thus, on the one hand, argues that the spread of the protestant ethic played a central role in the making of capitalism, or at least the “capitalist spirit” that was a prerequisite for the emergence of capitalism.
THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM *** By Richard Swedberg *** The Montréal Review, October *** "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" by Max Weber (Norton Critical Editions, ) *** This Norton Critical Edition is . Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a study of the relationship between the ethics of ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism.
Weber argues that the religious ideas of groups such as the Calvinists played a role in creating the capitalistic spirit.
Why Max Weber Was Wrong. by Samuel Gregg within Economics, The influence of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism remains by Catholics.
How ironic it would be if the last people to believe in Weber’s Protestant ethic thesis were Catholics! Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several. >The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (–05), held that the Protestant ethic was an important factor in the economic success of Protestant groups in the early stages of European capitalism; because worldly success could be interpreted as a sign of eternal salvation, it.
THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM *** By Richard Swedberg *** The Montréal Review, October *** "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" by Max Weber (Norton Critical Editions, ) *** This Norton Critical Edition is based on the Talcott Parsons translation ().