Weber_protestant+ethic - m x m Mama: May be Why we» law...

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Unformatted text preview: m x m Mama: May be Why we» law (Title I’ 0.8. Cede} m 1 and. rational” capitalism, the latter summed u Ifcariorah bout the “iron cage” in which n . . e as an eye 0 , e can f1 e er’s craftsmanship throughout in the writin _ . g, such ft wa he a ' to historical specialists ' going on to as y ' p ys deference The Argument of the Protestant Ethic egg??? sets up his argument by. noting that in modern times Prot- ers th re more likely to be businessmen, as well as skilled work- , ari'are Catholics. (The sexist language is intentional; Weber :glllifitogzgtl Ievcfe‘nt, tllie Protestant Reformation, which began . n act, t e effects have lin yond Weber’s. Germany. The United Stattfse 1:: firezsgavdvl‘gzhl be- gan‘ as'a Puritan settlement, was, even in Weber’s da, th e- capitlalist society in the world. Research since then his sileovrvnrimat ar pattern, up‘ to a point: American Protestants dominated ness and the skilled working-class trades until about 1960 Af ter that, however, Catholics caught up with American Prot ~ and even overtook them in the higher occupations. es ants busliDnoeessS tvhéicmean Lhat the effects of Protestantism on capitalist has finally disls'l'illlfatile deniilorr1 ngs it mean that the Protestant Ethic . . . _rn or, as some say, “postmodern” l1;\rr(r)iteci;:1:iiialffiges11:2:Egggdeither coirliclusion, we might note that I in ra l ' ’ ' America, as traditional Catholicgs hive )begiiegszxtlfrifgietbl; thltm tafnt sects: This religious movement has gone along with a tarlfeci‘f :Stgzfilsttafilfl in Latin America, and it is just those converts to Prot- IOOk if 0 are leading the drive to expand small business. It . s as l the Protestant Ethic and the growth of capitalism being played out yet again on another terrain. are ml{:irslsulrlrgierIgCtallieret 1: a connection between Protestantism and capi- Standi,n . n i e explained? Weber takes issue with a long- g interpretation of the Protestant Reformation, which viii FEB 14 2006 RESERVE DESK regards it as a decline in the religiousness of the Middle Ages. Protestantism was not a move to secularization, but exactly the op- posite, an increase in religious intensity. Protestantism was not a shift toward worldly enjoyment, which was already quite well ad- vanced in the Catholic societies of the Renaissance. The impor- tance of the Reformation, instead, was the impetus Protestantism gave to the combination of piety with business. Now Weber introduces a crucial distinction. Capitalism was not invented by the Reformation; it existed in many societies through- out medieval and ancient history. There were merchants in ancient Greece, slave markets in Rome, all manner of business enterprise in China and India, merchant caravans in the Islamic world, and merchant guilds which dominated the cities of Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries in the Middle Ages. Capitalism was not lacking; what was lacking was a spirit of capitalism, and an organization of capitalism, distinctive to modern capitalism. Weber refers to the two kinds of capitalism as, on the one hand, “traditional” capital- ism, and, on the other hand, modem or “rational” capitalism. Traditional capitalists were certainly interested in making prof- its; but there was nothing about this that could be regarded as a social “ethic.” The ideal was to acquire social position and, of course, the money to support it, but not to become bogged down in the struggle to make money. A comfortable aristocratic lifestyle was the goal, and business was carried out with an attitude of get- ting it over with as easily as possible. The most lucrative form of capitalist enterprise consisted of long-distance trade, preferably in luxury items on which a large profit could be made: spices from the Indies, silk from China, gold and jewels from the fabled mines the Spanish conquistadors sought in the Americas. Weber calls one version of this “politically oriented adventurers’ capitalism” or “booty capitalism”: a form of investment combining military and political expeditions with the expectation of making a business profit. Greek, Roman, and Islamic armies made money by captur- ing slaves; other armies established plantations or conquered trade routes. In the civilian version of “political adventurers’ capital- ism,” prominent during the early modern period in France and other European states, an entrepreneur would buy up government offices in return for a split of their revenue; for instance, one could ix become a “tax farmer," ' ' ‘ for a cut of the take. buying the right to collect taxes in return Weber regards all these forms of “traditional” capitalism as sharp contrasts to “rationalized” modern capitalism. Ratirmal capi- talism is based not on luxury trades but on mass production of the commodities of everyday life. The medieval merchant sought to make a fortune out of a single cargo of jewels; the modern capital- ist makes a far bigger fortune out of mass marketing humble com- modities such as tires or toilet paper. Hence the traditional attitude the greedy maximization of profit in a one-shot enterprise has been overcome by a new attitude which relies upon the accumula- tion of many small gains. Not high prices and windfall profits but moderate prices and high, steady sales are the driving force of modern capitalism. It is for this reason, incidentally, that Weber in his later works notes that modern capitalism is not driven by the industrial revolution and the invention of new technologies, but the other way around: mass-production technologies are of no use until there IS a mass market for everyday goods. Such technology is pointless in the luxury trades. Modern machinery is the result of a prior revolution in the spirit of capitalism. .Weber finds evidence of the existence of this rational capitalist spirit in the writings of Benjamin Franklin during the 17305 and 405. Franklin is famous in American folklore as an inventor patri- otic politician, writer, and printer. He was also a successful busi- nessman, and his maxims exemplify the new attitude for doing busmess: “time is money,” “a penny saved is a penny earned,” waste not want not," and so forth. The attitude is that hard work and saVing one ’s money are not only a way of making more money but an ethical obligation. Wasting time and frivolously spending money are wrong; although Franklin no longer put it in religious language, the carryover is unmistakable: it is a sin. The religious impetus to rational capitalism emerged in several stages. The most extreme form was Calvinism, a doctrine which spread from Geneva, to the Netherlands, to England, and then came With the Puritans who settled New England in the 16205 John Calvin, who led a religious uprising to take over the city of Geneva during the 15405, formulated the extreme version with his doctrine of predestination. Calvinism is a branch of so-called radical” Protestantism; them is also a milder form, which began with Martin Luther, who started the original Protestant revolt against the Roman Catholic papacy in 1517. Weber’s book thus traces several levels of the development of Protestantism: first Luther’s conception of a calling; then Calvinism; finally, he cleans up the loose ends by dealing with some of the other “radical” Prot- estant sects, what he calls the “ascetic branches of Protestantism,” such as the Pietists, Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists. Luther’s crucial contribution was to formulate the idea that work is a “calling.” The term is familiar today among Protestant minis- ters. If a preacher receives a job offer to go to another church, it is referred to as “receiving a call,” with the sense of “a call from Above.” Luther originated the doctrine that every kind of work, every activity in the ordinary world, is a religiously sanctioned ac- tivity. A person is “called” to work in business, or as a laborer, or a farmer. Weber regards this as a key step in turning religious moti- vations in the direction of ordinary work, which would ultimately lead to the new spirit of capitalism. However, Luther was only the first, half-way step. Luther emphasizedttraditional social activities, including obedience to traditionally constituted state authority. Luther preached adjustment to the world. He was a social conser- vative. It was the ascetic sects, going beyond Luther, which har- nessed religious motivation to change the world and thereby carried through the revolution in social attitudes. The ascetic Protestants, in turn, divided into two branches. On one side were the Calvinists, whose key doctrinal point was pre- destination; on the other were the radical sects (Quakers, Baptists, etc.) who rejected life in the ordinary world entirely and tried to live like the community of early Christian Apostles. Weber regards these radical sects as somewhat tangential to his main argument, although he notes they had important social effects in their own right, including their influence upon American democracy. But his key interest focuses on the Calvinists, for they led the Puritan revo- lution in England during the 16405, and it was an offshoot of this group which settled New England and imparted its spirit to Ameri- can capitalism. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination holds that God has al- ready picked out who will be saved for Heaven and who will be punished in Hell. Weber argued that this belief must have given rise to a very strong anxiety, as believers wondered whether they V xi were in the category of the saved or the damned. The doctrine holds that we are all sinners, all equally worthy of damnation; our sins are so great that nothing we can do can make us worthy of salvation. Only God, of His own will, mercifully picks out the few who are elected to be saved. Hence doing good works—praying, going to church, repenting, giving to charity—count as nothing to- ward one’s salvation. But there is one pathway which is psycho- logically comforting: to live a godly life in every respect, every moment of the day. If one does this, turning one’s work into a call- ing, restricting any impulse to frivolous pleasure, one comes to ex- perience a feeling of assurance that indeed one is a member ’of the Elect. The puritan, ascetic lifestyle thus emerges as a response to the doctrine of predestination. Its effects, in turn, are to bring worldly economic activity under religious control and to harness religious motivation to a new spirit of capitalism. The doctrine of predestination is a set of ideas, and here Weber seems to be giving a very forceful example of how ideas can influ- ence social history, rather than vice versa. It is possible for us to develop other interpretations of what Weber is showing. Weber is dealing with a time when religion was an omnipresent part of daily life. Preachers were the main source of news, education, and even entertainment; the church was the center of village life, and relig- ious ceremonies marked the activities of urban guilds and of aristo- cratic households. In short, religion comprised not just ideas; it was social practice. The political upheavals which took place during the Reforma- tion broke apart the routine of daily living. Clergy allied with the aristocracy or with the state were replaced by a new type of pri- vately ordained minister; cities became independent under new re- ligious leaders; wars were fought; disbelievers were expelled or killed. The Reformation and the religious wars and revolutions, which continued through the 1500s and into the late 16005, caused an upheaval in everyday life. Theological beliefs were not just an esoteric concern oflchurch intellectuals, but matters widely dis- cussed among ordinary people. Ideas became symbols of contrast- ing ways of life. Weber notes that ideas were so important at this time in history because they were closely connected with action; he avoids the question of which came first, ideas or action, insofar as both made up a coherentwhole. (Robert Wuthnow’s book, cited xii in this volume’s “Suggested Further Reading,” gives a brilliant analysis of this complex of ideas and social practices at the time of the Reformation.) . The Calvinistic Puritans, above all, were leaders in the break- through to a new lifestyle. The significance of this breakthrough can be seen by contrasting it with the lifestyle and mode of belief that preceded it. Medieval Catholicism was by no means a lax re- ligious system. Weber points out that it channeled religious ener- gies into practices which flowed in a direction away from any possibility of changing worldly economic life. Catholicism empha- sized the pursuit of salvation by “good works”; this meant all the things a good Christian could do in order to attain salvation. These included praying, confession, taking part in church ritual, giving charitable contributions to the poor and sick, making pilgrimages to holy places, and worshipping holy relics. Weber comments that the doctrine and practice of “good works” meant that a good Catholic had a kind of spiritual bank account: one acquired sins, but against these one could set off one"s repentances and good works. Weber argues that this led to a cycle of sin and repentance, rather than a continuous motivation to make the world into a per- fect godly place; it siphoned off the anxiety and the religious moti- vation, which the Calvinists managed to harness. . There is a second way in which medieval Catholicism Siphoned off religious motivation. Christians were divided into two classes: a religious elite of monks and nuns, as compared to ordinary laity. The full-scale pressure to live a godly life was reserved for the monks and nuns, who withdrew from the world into monasteries, and applied themselves to the powerful asceticism of continuous prayer, bodily mortification, and spiritual discipline. Monks dis- placed the religious energy in a direction away from changing the world; hence it was crucial that Protestantism should eliminate monasteries. Martin Luther, who began as a Catholic monk, re- turned to the world and married. He became a Protestant minister, living among ordinary laity. By eliminating the monkhood, the level of religious motivation was spread from an elite to the entire population of believers. Without monasteries, henceforward every Protestant Christian had to live the disciplined life of a monk, but applied now to the daily activities of the ordinary world. xiii Weber has been sketching a causal chain across several links. First, medieval Catholic Christianity harnessed religious energy, but only for the monks and nuns. Second, Luther’s Reformation, which abolished the monasteries, made ordinary occupations into religious “callings.” Third, radical Calvinism, which turned up the pressure with the doctrine of predestination, made everyday life a constant drive for moral perfection. The economic effects of Cal- vinism were to set loose the spirit of rationalized capitalism: hon- est dealings in business, rather than greedy search for a maximal profit; reliable, steady production and sales, turning into a system of mass production; and continuous savings and reinvestment into further business growth. This led to a fourth stageruthe puritan capitalists began to grow rich. Continuous hard work, combined with ploughing back profits into business expansion, brought about business success. The ear- lier religious doctrines began to die out. Ben Franklin was no longer a Puritan or a Calvinist. The Americans of his day were turning to Deism, or to other rationalized doctrines which down- played the supernatural. But the spirit lived on in a secularized form, in the utilitarianism and individualism which comes out in Franklin’s worldly maxims, and continued to give an impetus to work, to save, to reinvest, to maintain self-control, and to keep striving for economic success. Modern capitalism took off; it no longer needed the religious motivation which had inspired it. Was there a fifth stage? Weber implies that by his day, around 1900, even the echoes of religious belief had become superfluous. “The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so.” Like it or not, the momentum of capitalism carries us along with it; to keep from falling to the bottom of the class structure, we need to scramble for success. “Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and to work out its ideals in the world, material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history.” Victorious capitalism no longer needs a religious impetus. Weber even comments that “In the field of its-highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to be come associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport” (quotations from pages 181-2). N xiv Is Weber right about this? Have we outgrown religious capital- ism entirely? The spread of capitalism around the world is far from dead. Recall the comment at the outset of this summary, that as- cetic Protestant sects have been spreading in Latin America and elsewhere in the very places where the new round of capitalism has been growing. In America, the homeground of the most extreme forms both of the Protestant Ethic and of modern capitalism, relig- ious revivals have taken place periodically, including. the most re- cent round, from the 1970s to the 903, which comcrdes With another upsurge in the popularity of capitalism. Weber wrote about a limited segment of history and expressed himself cautiously about what might happen in the future. He is now part of the generation of our great-grandparents. l‘levertheless, in many respects, especially for Americans, his Vision is fresher now than he himself would have ever expected it to be. The Sources of Weber’s Argument ' ions are the key: the conflicting ents, and his visit to America in 1904. Weber’s life is a lodrama, complete with rapeutic recovery. He vileged elite of German p grew up in the ' ' as the leader of a political par life. His fathe. xv The Protestant Et/n'c and the Spirit of Capitalism ubjected on the part of those circles. Defoe pro- po d to win the battle against dissent by boy mg edit and withdrawing deposits. \ e differ- two types of capitalistic itude went to ' with religious dif- the Nonconformists, ntury, again and again ridi- 'ng the spirit of shopkeep- a very large ferences. The rgeois capitalistic ethic.111 One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism, and not only of that but of all modern culture: rational conduct on the basis of the idea of the calling, was bom—that is what this discus- sion has sought to demonstrate—from the spirit of Christian asceticism. One has only to re-read the pas- sage from Franklin, quoted at the beginning of this es- say, in order to see that the essential elements of the attitude which was there called the spirit of capitalism are the same as what we have just shown to be the content of the Puritan worldly asceticism,112 only with- out the religious basis, which by Franklin’s time had died away. The idea that modern labour has an as- cetic character is of course not new. Limitation to specialized work, with a renunciation of the Faustian universality of man which it involves, is a condition of any valuable work in the modern world; hence deeds and renunciation inevitably condition each other today. This fundamentally ascetic trait of middle-class I80 Axcetz'czkm and the Spirit of Capitalism life, if it attempts to be a way of life at all, and not simply the absence of any, was what Goethe wanted to teach, at the height of his wisdom, in the Wander-jahren, and in the end which he gave to the life of his Faust.’ ’3 For him the realization meant a renunciation, a departure from an age of full and beautiful human- ity, which can no more be repeated in the course of our cultural development than can the flower of the Athenian culture of antiquity. The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and eco- nomic conditions of machine production which to-day determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Per- haps it will so determine them until the last ton of fos- silized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for ex- ternal goods should only lie on the shoulders of the “saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment.”114 But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and to work out its ideals in the world, material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history. To-day the spirit of religious asceticism—whether finally, who knows?—has escaped from the cage. But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical I81 stoma 2.2m new“: The Protestant Et/Jic and the Spirit of Capitalism foundations, needs its support no longer. The rosy blush of its laughing heir, the Enlightenment, seems also to be irretrievably fading, and the idea of duty in one’s calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs. Where the fulfilment of the calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiri- tual and cultural values, or when, on the other hand, it need not be felt simply as economic compulsion, the individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it at all. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its re- ligious and ethical meaning, tends to become associ- ated with purely mundane passions, which often actu- ally give it the character of sport.” No one knows who will live in this cage in the fu- ture, or whether at the end of this tremendous develop- ment 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: “Spe- cialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civiliza- tion never before achieved.” But this brings us to the world of judgments of value and of faith, with which this purely historical discussion need not be burdened. The next task would be rather to show the significance of ascetic rational- ism, which has only been touched in the foregoing sketch, for the content of practical social ethics, thus for the .types of organization and the functions of so- cial groups from the conventicle to the State. Then its I82 Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalzkm relations to humanistic rationalism,116 its ideals of life and cultural influence; further to the development of philosophical and scientific empiricism, to technical development and to spiritual ideals would have to be analysed. Then its historical development from the mediwval beginnings of worldly asceticism to its dis- solution into pure utilitarianism would have to be traced out through all the areas of ascetic religion. Only then could the quantitative cultural significance of ascetic Protestantism in its relation to the other plastic elements of modern culture be estimated. Here we have only attempted to trace the fact and the direction of its influence to their motives in one, though a very important point. But it would also fur- ther be necessary to investigate how Protestant Asceti- cism was in turn influenced in its development and its character by the totality of social conditions, especially economic.117 The modern man is in general, even with the best will, unable to give religious ideas a signifi- cance for culture and national character which they de- serve. But it is, of course, not my aim to substitute for a one-sided materialistic an equally one-sided spiritual- istic causal interpretation of culture and of history. Each is equally possible,118 but each, if it does not serve as the preparation, but as the conclusion of an investigation, accomplishes equally little in the interest of historical truth.119 I83 ...
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Weber_protestant+ethic - m x m Mama: May be Why we» law...

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