Friday, March 2, 2012

The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism by Max Weber

The Problem
- Denomination and Social Stratification
  1. "business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the skilled higher strata of the labor force, and especially the higher technical or commercially trained staff of modern enterprises tend to be predominantly Protestant." - 1
  2. "But what is often forgotten is that the Reformation meant...the replacement of an extremely relaxed, practically imperceptible, and scarcely more than formal authority by an infinitely burdensome and earnest regimentation of the conduct of life" - 2
  3. "The more calm; his acquisitive drive is lower, he places more value on a life which is as secure as possible, even if this should be on a smaller income, than on a perilous, exciting life, which could bring honors and riches. As the popular saying jokingly has it, 'either eat well or sleep soundly.' In the above case, the Protestant likes to eat well, while the Catholic wants to sleep soundly." - 5, Offenbacher
- The "Spirit" of Capitalism
  1. "Kurnberger, in his book, The Man Tired of America, sums up its philosophy of life thus: ' They turn cattle into tallow, and people into money.' The essence of this 'philosophy of avarice' is the idea of the duty of the individual to work toward the increase of his wealth, which is assumed to be an end in itself." - 11
  2. "the 'summum bonum' of this 'ethic' is the making of money and yet more money, coupled with a strict avoidance of all uninhibited much purely thought of as an end in itself that it appears as something wholly transcendent and irrational, beyond the 'happiness' or the 'benefit' of the individual." - 12
  3. "Moneymaking --  provided it is done legally -- is, within the modern economic order, the result and the expression of diligence in one's calling and this diligence is...the real alpha and omega of [Benjamin] Franklin's morality" - 12-3
  4. Traditionalism: "a person does not 'by nature' want to make more and more money, but simply to live -- to live in the manner in which he 'is accustomed to live, and to earn as much as is necessary for this.'" - 16
  5. "We shall...provisionally use the expression 'spirit of capitalism' for that attitude which, in the pursuit of a calling strives systematically for profit for its own sake in the manner exemplified by Benjamin Franklin." - 19
  6. Rationalism: "a historical concept which embraces a world of opposites...that concrete form of 'rational' thinking and living from which arose the idea of the 'calling' and that devotion to the work of the calling -- so irrational from the point of view of eudaemonistic self-interest -- which was and still is one of the most characteristic components of our capitalist culture." - 27-8
- Luther's Conception of the Calling
  1. "labor in a secular calling appears as the outward expression of Christian charity. This view is based in particular on the argument that division of labor forces each individual to work for others, an extremely otherworldly argument which is almost grotesquely at variance with Adam Smith's well-known dictum." - 29
  2. "If economic traditionalism was at first a result of Pauline indifference, it later came to flow from an ever-more intense belief in providence that identifies unconditional obedience to God with unconditional submission to the situation in which one has been placed." - 32
The Idea of the Calling in Ascetic Protestantism
- The Religious Foundations of Innerworldly Asceticism
  1. "To assume that human merit or fault had any influence on one's fate would be to regard God's absolutely free decision which had stood for all eternity, as capable of being changed by human influence -- an impossible idea...Since his decrees were immutably fixed, those on whom he bestowed his grace could never lose it, just as those to whom he denied it could never attain it." - 73
  2. "The wonderfully purposeful structuring and organization of this cosmos, which, according to the biblical revelation and equally according to natural insight, is evidently designed to be of 'use' to the human race, shows that labor in the service of this social usefulness furthers the divine glory and is willed by God." - 76
  3. regarding Calvin's doctrine of predestination, "One question inevitably very soon arose for every single believer, and forced all other interests into the background: 'Am I one of the elect? And how can I be certain of my election?'" - 76
  4. "tireless labor in a calling was urged as the best possible means of attaining this self-assurance" of election in the eschatology of predestination - 77-8
  5. "Totally unsuited though good works are to serve as a means of attaining salvation...they are indispensable as signs of election...This means, however, the Calvinist 'creates' his salvation himself (as it is sometimes expressed) -- more correctly: creates the certainty of salvation." - 79
  6. Pietism: "For our subject...merely the penetration of methodically cultivated and controlled, that is , ascetic, living into areas of non-Calvinist religious observance." - 90
  7. "just as in external 'material' life, the inclination to seek enjoyment in the present conflicts with the rational structuring of the 'economy', which is, after all, based on the need to make provision for the future, so it is, in a sense, in the sphere of religious life." - 94
  8. Methodism: "A combination of emotional and yet ascetic religious practice and increasing indifference or even rejection of the dogmatic foundation of Calvinist asceticism is a distinguishing mark of the Anglo-American equivalent to continental Pietism" - 95
- Asceticism and the Capitalist Spirit


  1. Which edition did you use to get the above page numbers?

    thanks in advance.

    1. It's from the Penguin Classics, published in 2002, edited by Baehr and Wells. ISBN 9780140439212. I really should go back and give edition information for all posts.