Max Weber was a prominent historian, sociologist and economist. He is mostly famous for his work on the history of culture, economics, and sociology. Considering himself as a pioneer of the new science, Weber strived, along with the development of a material sociology of economy, politics and religion, to give the first systematic description of the epistemological, methodological, and theoretical foundations of sociology. He was the author of many works, among which “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” draws our particular interest in the current paper. Basically, there are two main issues addressed in the treatise above specified: an impact of religious doctrine on the economic way of life of society, its impact on the structure of society.
Weber was a scholar who emphasized on an important role of religion in emergence of capitalism, moreover he indicated that it was a religion that gave an inception to capitalism, – thesis that is absolutely opposing to Marx`s followers who strongly believed vice versa. Weber widely used a concept of “capitalism”, having borrowed it from the already mentioned Marxists. Weber attributed in the appearance of capitalism the desire of human beings to get the profit based on free wage labor, rational and legal actions of people towards each other, widespread “rational, systematic, and specialized pursuit of science” (15). The opportunity for emergence of capitalism, new economic order, the researcher saw in the existence of new system of values, of new ethics, that was possible due to the rise of Protestantism in the early sixteenth century. For sure, the conscious aim of M. Luther or J. Calvin was not in paving the way for the “spirit of capitalism” – the Protestant Reformers were concerned about the reform of the church and of the religion. But Protestantism deeply invaded into a life outside of the church, into consciousness and behavior of laypersons, prescribing them as commandments just what the advancing capitalist era was requesting. New concepts preached by Protestantism were an effective means of ideological education with a new identity and new human values which resulted in generation and further development of capitalism.
In such a manner, M. Weber assumed about the existence of the relationship between the religious ethic of Protestantism and of those attitudes towards human life that assisted in the emergence of the “spirit” of capitalism and assisted its development in terms of personal moral motivations. His main observations give evidence to the existing causation: special spiritual education, religious atmosphere of the parental house determine the direction of education, career choices and further professional destiny of a person. Moreover, proposing social and evolutionary model of the development of religion, he stated that the evolution from the mystical beliefs, polytheism to monotheism and, finally, ethical monotheism was possible because of the stabilization of the economic system of the society which resulted in professionalization and the development of the clergy as a specific sociological phenomenon.
The theory of interconnection of religion and economy described in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” was assumed by Weber on the basis of ethical system of Protestantism, which followers motivates others to hard work, to the rational management of the economy and to investing profits in further production – main concepts of capitalistic approach to economy. The concept of the divine nature of the labor, so greatly bigoted by representatives of Protestantism, indicated that economic activity is a prerequisite for eternal salvation. And adherence to righteousness in all aspects of life, so greatly glorified by Catholic priests, was insufficient, according to the approach of Protestantism. The doctrine of predeterminacy of every person`s fate reduced social tension caused by economic inequality, moreover, wealth was regarded as an important indicator of a blissful afterlife. Thus, the pursuit of wealth was not considered as a sign of sinful greed or ambition, but of morality and righteousness. It was believed by Weber to be the “spirit of capitalism”, who, at the same moment, was emphasizing on the intangible nature of the prerequisites for the formation of the capitalist economic system.
Weber, M. “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003. Print
“Max weber”. VectorStudy. 28 Jul. 2012. Web. 28 Sep. 2013