Evaluation Of The Weber Thesis

Evaluation Of The Weber Thesis-23
I cannot begin to cover all of Weber's critics in the course of this paper, but I will present some representative criticisms of the theory.

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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: Criticisms of Weber's Thesis by Sandra Pierotti Max Weber's theory of the part which Protestantism, specifically Calvinism, played in the development of a spirit of capitalism in western Europe has had a profound effect on the thinking of sociologists and historians since its publication in 1904.

Many historians value its application of social theory to historical events and praise it for its attempt to explain why capitalism thrived in Europe and subsequently the United States and not as much in other places.

Weber's misinterpretation of Franklin does not in itself invalidate his methodol ogy or his Protestant Ethic thesis.

Nonetheless, it does suggest a rather cavalier attitude towards evidence, particularly as the writings of Franklin are the only 'evidence' that he presents in his original essays to demonstrate the existence of the 'spirit of capitalism'. reminded their flocks that the Christian life was 'a serious life, a life of toil and not of diversion, play or pleasure' so that one ought never to forget that it 'should be filled with some useful and sober occupation suitable for one's state of existence.' The Jesuits stressed almost the same beliefs.

In their article, "In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism: Weber's Misinterpre tation of Franklin," Tony Dickson and Hugh Mc Lachlan disagree with Weber that Franklin was talking about an ethic in the selection quoted above.

Evaluation Of The Weber Thesis

"Far from demonstrating a commitment to the 'spirit of capitalism,' and the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself and moral duty, Franklin's writings are in fact evidence against the existence of such a spirit." Dickson and Mc Lachlan point out that the title of the work from which Weber quoted is "Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich." They assert, "This suggests that what Franklin is offering is prudential advice, rather than insisting on a moral imperative." The gist of Dickson's and Mc Lachlan's argument is that Weber misinterpreted Franklin's writings as moral ends when they were simply virtues to be practiced because of the benefits they will bring to those who practice them.The repercussions have echoed throughout the academic world for almost 100 years and continue today.This paper will take a look at some of the criticisms of Weber's capitalism/protestantism theory from various points of view.The Protestant Ethic spawned and encouraged what Weber called the "spirit of capitalism." By Weber's definition, this is more than simply capitalist activity.It is, in fact, the essence which underlies the economic system.Weber was influenced by the writings of Benjamin Franklin, in which he saw early indications of the spirit of capitalism before there was a capitalistic order in the American colonies.Weber quoted Franklin early in his work and based many of this ideas on Franklin's writings: For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.Once we have ruled out that Protestantism could have produced a phenomenon that already existed, it still remains for us to enquire whether capitalism was encouraged or opposed by Protestantism. He concludes his article by stating, "The creation of a new mentality in the economic field cannot therefore be considered as the work of Protestantism, or rather of any one religion, but it is a manifestation of that general revolution of thought that characterizes the period of the Renaissance and the Reformation, by which in art, philosophy, morals, and economy, the individual emancipates . Mac Kinnon, bases his disagreements with Weber on the idea that Weber misinterpreted what the Calvinists were saying about the concept of the calling and good works.Fanfani goes on to argue that it was not the Protestant Ethic which encouraged the growth of capitalism but the fact that many Protestants were forced to leave Catholic countries to escape persecution which "fosters in the emigrants an internationalism that is no small element in capitalist mentality." In fact, he says that many early Protestant leaders opposed capitalism, including Luther and Calvin: "Luther's conservatism in economic matters, to which his patriarchal ideas on trade and his decided aversion to interest bear witness. He states early on in his article, There are two fundamental theological flaws in Weber's line of reasoning, flaws that mean that Calvinism did not give a divine stamp of approval to earthly toil: (1) There is no crisis of proof in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the dogmatic culmination of seventeenth-century Calvinism upon which Weber so heavily relies, and (2) in Christianity generally and Calvinism in particular, works have nothing to do with mundane activities.They deny that Franklin was preaching a Protestant work ethic and assert that all Franklin was saying was that if a person is interested in being successful in life and commerce, here are some virtues to follow.Dickson and Mc Lachlan conclude with a clear statement of their criticism of Weber's hypothesis: It seems clear to us that Weber misinterprets Franklin and that the latter was not imbued with the ethos which Weber attributes to him.


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