Dylan Suher's Reviews > The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
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's review
Sep 06, 2012

it was amazing
Read from August 17 to September 06, 2012

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 businessman who always seeks a profit, not for the sake of money, but for reasons so beyond him that even the idea of providing a justification or motive seems strange to him.

"If you ask them what is the meaning of their restless activity, why they are never satisfied with what they have, they would perhaps give the answer, if they know any at all: 'to provide for my children and grandchildren.'But more often and, since that motive is not peculiar to them, but was just as effective for the traditionalist, more correctly, simply: that business with its continuous work has become a necessary part of their lives. That is in fact the only possible motivation, but it at the same time expresses what is, seen from the view-point of personal happiness, so irrational about this sort of life, where a man exists for the sake of his business, instead of the reverse."

"That powerful tendency towards the uniformity of life, which today so immensely aids the capitalistic interest in the standardization of production, has its ideal foundations in the repudiation of all idolatry of the flesh."

"The peculiar position of the old Hebrew ethic, as compared with the closely related ethics of Egypt and Babylon, and its development after the time of the prophets, rested, as is shown there, entirely on this fundamental fact, the rejection of sacramental magic as a road to salvation."

"It would have been easy to proceed beyond that to a regular construction which logically deduced everything characteristic of modern culture from Protestant rationalism. But that sort of thing may be left to the type of dilettante who believes in the unity of the group mind and its reducibility to a single formula."

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