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Modern Capitalism and Weber

Giddens (1971) discusses the thesis developed by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in the form of two long articles in 1904 and 1905. In these articles, Weber tries to show the beginnings of capitalism and to relate this to the spirit of the Reformation, that period when Protestantism developed, breaking away from the control of the Catholic Church and asserting not only a religious independence but a different social view that would also have an influence in economic matters. Weber finds that there is a connection between being Protestant and being a business leader and an owner of capital--he says that statistics show this to be a fact in his own time and also to be a historical fact: "it can be shown that some of the early centers of capitalist development in the early part of the sixteenth century were strongly Protestant" (124). One explanation might be that the break with economic traditionalism in these centers produced a sloughing off of tradition in general and of religious institutions in their old form in particular. However, this interpretation cannot be supported by the facts. Giddens says the Reformation was not an escape from the controls of the Catholic Church and that Protestantism demanded a much higher degree of regulation of behavior. The connection between Protestantism and economic rationality must therefore be found in the character of Protestant beliefs.

This is what Weber sought in his articles. Weber's work begins with an anomaly. It is usually thought that those whose lives are bound up with the pursuit of money are either indifferent to religion or openly hostile to it, since their actions are directed toward the material world and not the immaterial world of spirituality. Protestantism, however, demanded a more vigorous discipline than did Catholicism and thus extended the religious factor into all spheres of life, including the economic sphere. ...

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Modern Capitalism and Weber. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:30, January 18, 2017, from