The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  4,873 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Max Weber's best-known and most controversial work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1904, remains to this day a powerful and fascinating read. Weber's highly accessible style is just one of many reasons for his continuing popularity. The book contends that the Protestant ethic made possible and encouraged the development of capitalism...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published July 23rd 2001 by Roxbury Publishing Company (first published 1904)
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Trevor
I think you could get away with reading just chapter five of this one - that is where the guts of the argument is. It is not that the rest of the book is completely uninteresting, but it is much less interesting. It is in this final chapter that the real thesis is worked out.

A thumbnail version goes like this. There appears to be lots more Protestant capitalists than there are Catholic ones. Also, Protestant countries tend to be more economically developed than Catholic ones - so why? Marxism w...more
Eric_W
For years we have been assaulted by politicians and religious leaders preaching the Christian "work ethic," yet I find little justification, if any, for the concept anywhere in the New Testament. I happened to be discussing this with my dad a while ago, who also happens to be one of the smartest people I know, and he recommended Weber’s book. First published in 1905, it provoked considerable controversy.

Weber's thought was grounded in a belief that history is of critical portance to the social...more
Anthony D Buckley
One of the central disputes in Protestantism had long been that between the Calvinists and the Arminians. The Calvinist believed that every person had been chosen by God in the beginning to be either saved or damned, and that there was nothing anybody could do to change his decision. These “elect” individuals could not be certain of their salvation, but they might be identified by their tendency to live lives of piety and goodness. In contrast, the followers of Arminius thought that each individ...more
Hadrian
Even now, this is a profoundly interesting and detailed book, being the foundation of economic sociology, and is of considerable use today.

The main thesis is that several Christian denominations, mainly Calvinists, etc., believed that economic and social prosperity has a religious basis - that God has bestowed the gifts of success to these people, and therefore this should be imitated. Hence the Protestant Work Ethic - a religiously sanctioned form of capitalism.

As the prominence of religion wax...more
Amit
This book has and continues to recieve positive acclaim. However, Weber's work is not only Euro-centric and anti-Catholic, but relies on the use of a dichotamous inclusive-exclusive framework of logic.

At the introduction of the text, the author endeavours to demonstrate the uniqueness of ‘Western’ civilization relative to others as well as emphasize its alleged “universal significance and value” . At first glance, being different and universal appears to be paradoxical. However, the author over...more
Cărăşălu
Ai naibii de grea cartea, mai ales pentru o minte profană. Stilul lui e Weber e groaznic, cu fraze extrem de întortocheate, ceea ce face urmărirea firului ideii foarte dificilă. O bună parte din carte se axează pe analiza dogmelor diverselor curente protestante, iar dacă nu știi prea multe despre ele, argumentarea lui Weber e un vîrtej în care te pierzi și nu mai înțelegi nimic. Ideea de bază e însă interesantă și trebuie înțeleasă în toată specificitatea ei, de unde și minuțiozitatea argumentăr...more
Andrew
Protestantism is ballin'.

Amazing how much this book is about the hustler spirit: dude who'd buy in bulk, talk to his customers and push volume, figure out how to innovate to make a better product. Break with tradion. And apparently protestant women are very best at innovating, so says Weber.

Weber basically writes to Marx at a couple points, referring to "materialist" theories, basically saying that Southern US plantations had all the time and talk of capitalists but the northern homesteaders got...more
Draco3seven Crawdady
Webber describes one of the mechanisms of modernity or more precisely influencing factors of capitalisms as the protestant ethic or as he puts it the ethic of greed. What he points out is that along with the development of capitalism so also a set of ethical standards developed conducive to these goals of capitalism.
Zoe
Although this is very Eurocentric, it was ground-breaking at the time. Also, it is fascinating to look at the connections between religious beliefs and social practices. Having lived in Italy definitely brought me face to face with my own Calvinist origins, and the black and white vision that that philosophy brings with it.
Hany
Protestants are truly enlightened. And their school of thought is the basis of western civilization today. I am a Muslim but out of fairness, I admire them.
Peter Namtvedt
Sep 22, 2009 Peter Namtvedt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like theories of history
Recommended to Peter by: some professor
This is somewhat of an academic book. My first inclination was to call it non-fiction. But if it suggests in any way that greed is good, it must be made-up. And greed of a kind ranks quite high here.

The thesis seems to be that the prime cause for the development of capitalism was Calvinist Christianity. There are Catholics who would quarrel about this. The Calvinists were the part of the Reformation, the Protestants, who believed in predestination. If god knows everything, including the future,...more
Elfdart
this book was somewhat difficult to get through because of the footnotes (i have trouble with footnotes), once you get that point though, it’s a fantastic book. it discusses why the capitalist system we have now, and the morality we have now is the way it is. we have all heard of the protestant ethic yes? it is that you must work hard, without pleasuring yourself too much, for the sake of pleasing god. working as hard as you can allows a person to ‘most effectively’ utilize the gifts god has giv...more
Victoria
This book makes me think of Edward Said's Orientalism, in the way that it is now generally accepted that trying to construct religious or ethnographical archetypes to explain historical phenomena is methodologically useless (besides being insulting) (as per Said), but still no one critiques Weber for having done exactly that. It's as though it's perfectly reasonable for him to have done because 1. it's about Westerners, so it's not insulting and 2. he's got proof to back things up, so it isn't s...more
John Alt
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 1926. R.H. Tawney. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1905. Max Weber

Both are classics in the literature of economic social science.

Tawney was born in 1880 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and in 1960 was buried at Highgate Cemetery, North London, today a de facto nature reserve. He wore many hats: economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, Christian socialist, and was influential in all of them. Add to that his great passion for adult edu...more
Conor
Essays like this don't leave much room for explaining what they're about; it's right in the title. I would have given this five stars, but it's a bit outdated, and I can't say I enjoyed reading it all that much. Despite Weber's exemplary powers as an essayist, and the continued importance of this essay in particular to sociology and anthropology, this was an assigned read that I never finished the first time, and still got a bit mired in the second time around.
Caleb Ausbury
The thesis of Weber’s work is that Protestant views of asceticism, primarily influenced by Calvinism, played a significant psychological role in the development of the spirit of capitalism, which leads to the development of modern capitalism. The spirit of capitalism is characterized by the drive to make money as end in itself rather than a means. This drive also has morality attached to it. In other words, making more money than is needed is an ethical practice. This seems in stark contrast to...more
Michael Kearney
Max Weber's understanding of the Calvinistic belief system in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. Calvinists, because of their belief in a sovereign God, are often motivated to devote their lives to "advancing Christ's kingdom" in ways that benefit society. Realizing that every material gift and life itself are blessings from the hand of God, Calvinists will naturally act diligently and industriously. Their view of work is co...more
Ciara Panic
Bit racist to be honest. Kind of promotes this idea of European/American Protestant superiority, which makes sense the more you learn about Weber's personal life, but doesn’t really appeal to me. Firstly because I’m a Catholic, and secondly because I amn’t a racist.

I studied Weber last year in college, along with Marx and Durkheim. While Marx and Durkheim both had some good points going for them, Weber was just a dope. Even his research wasn’t always properly conducted. I get that he’s an import...more
Ali
این کتاب باید بارها و بارها خوانده شود، مانند چراغی است هم در تفکرات چپ و هم روح سرمایه داری...
Myke
Didn't agree with it entirely but sometimes it's nice to have your opinions challenged.
Helena
My first breath of pure air!
Bill
This is a very interesting book. It is a little difficult to read, having been translated from German, but it is well worth the extra effort.

Weber analyzes the growth of Capitalism from out of the rising Protestant spirituality of modern Europe (as well as the USA). His assertion is that Capitalism rose from the dominant Christian belief that wealth was s sign of blessing from God, bestowed upon His people as they pursued their "calling" from Him. However, this same blessing, when pursued, fed a...more
Rhonda
I have been reading this book over the last several weeks and I admit that it has been tough going. I first ran into this tome as a sophomopre in high school.. and immediately fell in love with Weber's passion, his three page paragraphs and sentences so long that they would make Hegel blush.I had read some psychology and I was suspicious of such writings, suspecting that someone who wrote (or studied) psychology probably had a few things wrong, but sociology was like psychology without people......more
Juan Pablo
Jan 23, 2010 Juan Pablo is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
El libro es una reedición del texto traducido hace casi medio siglo por Legaz Lacambra, pero revisada por el eminente académico Francisco Gil Villegas, que ha adjuntado a la obra un aparato crítico: una excelente introducción, que contextualiza histórica e intelectualmente la obra, así como notas explicativas. El editor, además, ha corregido algunas términos que habían sido traducidos deficientemente; siguiendo la línea de las últimas ediciones, distingue entre las partes del texto original de 1...more
Jeremy
“Now all [Ben:] Franklin’s moral attitudes are coloured with utilitarianism. Honesty is useful, because it assures credit; so are punctuality, industry, frugality, and that is the reason they are virtues.”

“The opportunity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less. He did not ask: how much can I earn in a day if I do as much work as possible? but: how much must I work in order to earn the wage, 2 ½ marks, which I earned before and which takes care of my traditional needs?”

“And...more
Pedro Caldas
Ah, os clássicos. Podem estar datados, sobretudo no que diz respeito à pesquisa empírica. Muita coisa é descoberta não muito tempo após sua publicação. Mas sempre algo permanece. Um livro como “A Ética protestante e o Espírito do capitalismo” é fundamental não por ter revolucionar a pesquisa da sociologia da religião ou coisa que o valha. Mas porque pensa a fundo o surgimento do homem moderno. Se encostarmos bem o ouvido, perceberemos que Weber está falando de cada um de nós. Portanto, por mais...more
Dylan Suher
While I don't even know if I agree with the thesis (I most strongly object to Weber's assertions that these features are particularly Western, and I am doubtful about the causal link---although Weber did not seek to make a simplistic causal argument), it's hard not to admire an argument so clearly and carefully made. I was particularly fascinated with the strange cult of rationality that Weber reveals. Nothing about this book stands out as clearly in my mind as Weber's sharp observation of the b...more
Charlie
This review concerns the Norton Critical Edition of Weber's work. The Protestant Ethic is a dramatic, seductive, original work that, despite its controversial premise, deserves an edition such as this. The edition employs the classic 1930 Parsons translation along with the translator's preface.

The text is left almost entirely unchanged. The editor occasionally modifies a footnote to clarify a cross reference or explain a foreign phrase left untranslated. A glossary of key terms or controversial...more
P.J. Sullivan
When feudalism broke down in the Late Middle Ages, Weber argues, the capitalism that emerged in its place was an entirely new ethos, accompanied by a peculiar Puritan ethic that dignified the accumulation of wealth as a sign of divine favor. The "spirit" of capitalism was distinct from the impulse to acquisition, which was nothing new in the 16th century. It was the pursuit of perpetually-renewed profit, for its own sake, above and beyond the satisfaction of traditional human needs. But what was...more
David
Ok. with all the stuff I am in the middle of and what is on deck., how did i happen to finish this??? Well, it wasn't' very long, it was in the boxes to be purged, i felt guilty to refer to it without ever having read it, and I heard that Barbara Ehrenreich has a new afterword to Nickel and Dimed (which I am read--basically she says we treat poverty like a crime now) so i figured i would go to the source as it were....

Funny, I remember the key concepts without having read it, and for that matte...more
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42041
Maximilian Carl Emil Weber was a German lawyer, politician, historian, sociologist and political economist, who profoundly influenced social theory and the remit of sociology itself. His major works dealt with the rationalization, bureaucratization and 'disenchantment' associated with the rise of capitalism. Weber was, along with his associate Georg Simmel, a central figure in the establishment of...more
More about Max Weber...
Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology The Sociology of Religion The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation/Politics as a Vocation The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Other Writings

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