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Max Weber (1864-1920) No one know who will in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will.

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Presentation on theme: "Max Weber (1864-1920) No one know who will in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will."— Presentation transcript:

1 Max Weber ( ) No one know who will in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals; or if neither, mechanized petrification embellished with a sort of convulsive self- importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved. 1

2 Rationalization rationalization: the process whereby an increasing number of social actions and social relationships become based on considerations of efficiency or calculation Values, traditions, and emotions are displaced in favor of formal and impersonal bureaucratic practices The story in the Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism is how the bases of social action in modern capitalism shift from traditional and affective to rational, and from value- rational to instrumental-rational 2

3 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) 3

4 What’s the connection between Protestantism and capitalist development ? Weber wonders: Why in modern Europe are business leaders and owners of capital, as well as high-ranking skilled labor, and the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises overwhelmingly Protestant? Why, even in the early 16 th century, were the centers of early capitalist development strongly Protestant? 4

5 But isn’t religion the opposite of materialism? Weber was puzzled by what seemed like an anomaly typically those whose lives are bound up with the pursuit of economic gain are either indifferent to religion or positively hostile to it their lives are focused on the material, whereas religion is concerned with the immaterial 5

6 The inductive method Weber explains that he's studying a phenomenon that is significant for its "unique individuality" The rise of modern capitalism in the West will only happen once, yet is no less sociologically significant Weber does not begin with a definition of the concept, the "spirit of capitalism," only a "provisional description" Empirical study of this historical case – the rise of capitalism in the West – is used to build the concept, from the ground-up "Thus the final definitive concept cannot stand at the beginning of the investigation, but must come at the end" Contrast with Marx's and Durkheim's deductive approach assumption that the “capitalist system” or the “social organism” operates according to a set of general laws 6

7 The ethic Weber noted that there's something peculiar about this "philosophy of avarice": the duty of an individual toward the increase of his capital, which is considered "an end in itself" What is preached is not simply a "means of making one's way in the world, but a peculiar ethic"  a duty, an ethos aim is to earn more and more money while avoiding all enjoyment of life economic acquisition becomes an end in itself (in this world) 7

8 Protestant asceticism One of fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism, and modern culture in general is the spirit of Christian asceticism Weber calls this kind of austerity and renunciation the essence of middle class life for background, he turns to a historical document of that spirit, the popular writings on saving and thrift from Benjamin Franklin Weber believes this document captures the spirit of capitalism in almost "classical purity," and thus could be likened to an ideal type 8

9 Calvinism The notion of a calling is technically irrational, but Weber is describing a particular kind of calling How does this state of affairs come about? most interpret this as a story about the triumph of ideas and they skip over the theological part We should view the problem in terms of salvation Calvinism does not believe that any good act on the part of humanity is redeeming, a statement about the depravity of human nature after the fall also a statement about the grace of God, since acts of humanity are unrelated to the probability of getting into heaven Despair is a sin; it's abandoning the hope of God's grace  One must act as if s/he had utter confidence of God's grace – even though s/he can't do anything about it 9

10 Faith replaced by an iron cage of rationality Over time capitalism loses the ethical driving force that spurred its initial rise "The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so"  "Fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage" he means the cloak of rationality, which earlier ascetics wore voluntarily He characterized "the last stage of this cultural development" thus: "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." 10

11 Rejection of historical materialism Weber argues that there's an "elective affinity" b/w Calvinism or certain sorts of Calvinist beliefs and the economic ethics of modern capitalism Not a causal argument, religious beliefs don’t “cause” capitalism Weber rejects historical materialism, but doesn't try to replace it with idealism "But it is of course not my aim to substitute for a one-sided materialistic an equally one-sided spiritualistic causal interpretation of culture and of history" 11

12 Alternative explanations Engels, and others, claimed that Protestantism was a reflection of economic changes in the early development of capitalism a materialist explanation Weber disagrees: "We must free ourselves from the view that one can deduce the Reformation as a historically necessary development from economic changes.“ rejection of historical materialism Weber insists that modern capitalism is different than "economic traditionalism" a man does not "by nature" wish to earn more and more money, but simply to live as he lives and as he is accustomed to live, and to earn as much as is required to do so" -- it’s not natural 12

13 Capitalism isn’t immoral Still, modern capitalism is not about immoral pursuit of gain, but upon disciplined obligation of work as duty  a unique combination of devotion to earning of wealth thru legit economic activity together with the avoidance of using income for personal enjoyment 13

14 Debt and morality In all Indo-European languages, words for “debt” are synonymous with those for “sin” or “guilt”, illustrating the links between religion, payment and the mediation of the sacred and profane realms by “money” (Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, 2011) For example, there is a connection between money (German Geld), indemnity or sacrifice (Old English Geild), tax (Gothic Gild) and, of course, guilt 14


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