Book Review: The Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism

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The Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism : By Max Weber:1930

Purpose: To display the brief findings on how Christian denominations namely Catholics and Protestants started their own doctrines to start their respective ascetic lives to serve GOD of the Bible in respective religious institutions particularly Churches ensuring the call fulfillment to attain redemption after life. However, later the Protestants start various doctrines with its ascetic sects finally willing to open up their ascetic devotion to call in secular world to serve GOD ending in acquisition of wealth raising the norms of Capitalism-making profits out of laboring in call in order to be elect.

Written to show the world that capitalism was born out of Christianity mindset developed from the bible principles according to the speech of Benjamin Franklin’s of protestant ethics which later became spirit of Capitalism, Weber tries to comprehend protestant ethic the factor behind the capitalism startup in the world. According to Frankilin’s speech Christianity is about individualism struggling with labor to fulfill the call to earn wealth coining “Time is money.” Hence the writing asserts that a labor wasted is time wasted which in turn waste opportunity to earn wealth to serve GOD.

Weber has presented especially four sects of Protestants that gradually created norms of Capitalism. Calvinism dealt with predestination of salvation through serving GOD with monastic life. The Puritans stressed on the ascetic life based on morality to serve GOD with a call. The Pietism then came as reformation of Calvinism and Puritanism with principles of daily duty towards the general community besides the GOD in ascetic life in monasteries and Church with duty of priest, pastor and clerks. Then Baptist emerged with principles of Methodism to be applied for salvation in GOD fulfilling call of GOD through faith and works both in Church and World with ascetic life by following the examples of teaching from the Old Testament and New Testament of prosperity through faith and works for GOD while living in world. But the author has raised a concern on spiritual and religion depletion due to excessive interest of the people in making riches out of labor.

Weber misses a point on emergence of two ways of life for believer in Christ. Some are called for priestly service while others are called for secular service to serve GOD with appropriate works. Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Mordecai, Barjellai among many Biblical heroes did have secular calling to serve GOD but Moses, Aron, Levites, 12 Apostles, 70 disciples, Barnabas, Paul and others were specifically called to serve GOD with priestly, prayer and word ministry call type totally to be engaged to temple works. It’s not necessary for the priest, prophets, Levites, apostles etc to conduct worldly duties because, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of GOD in order to wait on the tables,” Acts 6:2 but “Don’t muzzle an ox when it is treading the grains,” Deuteronomy 18:1 and “Stay there eating and drinking whatever they give you, for worker deserves his wages,” Luke 10:7 Hence the parable of talents not only means spending the money for getting profits, it also means GOD’s chosen servants preaching GOD’s words and praying by making living out of it.

“The thought of the pious boredom of paradise has little attraction for their active natures; religion appears to them as a means of drawing people away from labour in this world.”

 “The dogma Deo placere vix potest which was incorporated into the canon law and applied to the activities of the merchant, and which at that time (like the passage in the gospel about interest) was considered genuine, as well as St. Thomas’s characterization of the desire for gain as turpitude (which term even included unavoidable and hence ethically justified profit-making)”

 “That great historic process in the development of religions, the elimination of magic from the world which had begun with the old Hebrew prophets and, in conjunction with Hellenistic scientific thought, had repudiated all magical means to salvation as superstition and sin, came here to its logical conclusion.

 “A man without a calling thus lacks the systematic, methodical character which is, as we have seen, demanded by worldly asceticism. What God demands is not labour in itself, but rational labour in a calling.

The book has certain German words that are difficult to understand. There are other sources of development of Capitalism than just protestant ethics of individualism, labor and specialization of call. In fact the lure to worldly riches and conflicts of class and power are the main causes for development of Capitalism.

However, Max Weber covers the religious aspect for the emergence of Capitalism by crediting to Protestant Christianity over other religious of the world in a true sense.

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