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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  10,695 ratings  ·  470 reviews
The Protestant ethic — a moral code stressing hard work, rigorous self-discipline, and the organization of one's life in the service of God — was made famous by sociologist and political economist Max Weber. In this brilliant study (his best-known and most controversial), he opposes the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism and its view that change takes place through ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 4th 2003 by Dover Publications (first published November 1904)
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May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Anthony Buckley
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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 tradition. 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 g
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
We don't popularly associate capitalism with the religious idea of "asceticism" today, thinking of it more in terms of conspicuous consumption and vulgar materialism if anything. In this classic essay by Max Weber however, he lays out how the foundations of modern capitalism were actually laid in Protestant ideas of self-restraint, worldly action, and a disdain for accumulating wealth for its own sake or engaging in slothfulness. Its not a surprise to me that all our modern ideas, including in t ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"if we now combine the strictures against consumption with this unchaining of the striving for wealth, a certain external result now becomes visible, the formation of capital through asceticism's compulsive saving" (117)

A canonical work in Social Theory, which quotes Goethe and Benjamin Franklin as much as it does academic sources, Weber's dry analysis of culture aims to explain why Protestantism seems to be so popular amongst successful capitalists. For Weber the answer is that Protestantism en
Barnaby Thieme
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, sociology
In this masterpiece of the social sciences, Max Weber puts forth a multifactorial analysis for the relationship between the origins of capitalism and transformations in the religious, social, and economic attitudes of Protestants regarding the concept of profession or vocation (Beruf). Weber argues that the "spirit of capitalism" is rooted in the belief that worldly work is a virtue in and of itself, epitomized by the dictum of Benjamin Franklin that "time is money."

He traces the transformation
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In “The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism,” Max Weber explores the relationship between certain religious characteristics of Protestantism and the “spirit,” or “ethos”, of capitalism. He argues certain sects of Protestantism, primarily Calvinism, played a central role in capitalism’s eventual cultural dominance. Weber begins with the observation that Protestants overwhelmingly comprise the business elite and skilled labor force in comparison to Catholics. According to Weber, this i ...more
It didn't exactly impress me nor did it convince me. I found Weber's notion of an "innocent" and idealistic capitalism where profit is not the objective and the entrepreneurs should work for the uninterrupted trading of goods and capital, totally utopian. It does not apply to our time and age, where capitalists have shown their true colours and their one and only concern: profit, whatever the cost.
So, The Protestant Ethic probably teaches us what good ideas can turn into. It is difficult to get
Great Book Study
Interesting. A short read of history, psychology, and economics and how Christianity shaped our modern economy and psychological behavior. It's not War & Peace, but it was acceptably intriguing.

Quote: "...the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the 'saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment'. But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage."
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-science
Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) is a foundational sociological text. Its central thesis is by now well known. Modern Western capitalism owes its development to the influence of Protestant ideals. He proposes to trace back what are in his mind the essential features of modern capitalism to key aspects of what he calls the “Protestant ethic.” Though intriguing, the thesis itself is controversial and only partially convincing. The most enduring contribution of t ...more
Adrian S
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a challenge that evolved out of a heated argument I had in a bar with a friend on the socioeconomic side-effects of religion.

Although Max Weber is acclaimed as, among others, a sociologist, I must say that this book is anything but sociology. It is a heap of anecdotal short stories which might as well have been cherry-picked by an uninformed child. No statistics, no control groups, no systematic studies, nothing which would pass for even a semblance of science in 2017.

That be
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As the (excellent!) introduction explains, after suffering from a depression that lasted years, Max Weber rose up again and published his most important works. Of these, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) is possibly the most famous and the most debated one.

Weber's main thesis can be summarized fairly easily: it was the historical development that Calvinism - and its English offshoots - took hold of the masses that created the conditions for modern capitalism to become wha
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I guess Weber was Fukuyama before Fukuyama. A book of a grand philosophical premise for the flow history. In this case, those ascetic predestinated protestants working hard for God's favor displayed in material wealth and creating the makings of Capitalism. It might have been groundbreaking in 1902 but it is a banal commonplace especially among when repeated endlessly establishment types. Anyway, I felt like sooner or later I would have to get around to this book. Perhaps if it were 1902 I migh ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I suspect that a lot of Germans in the 19th century discovered the discursive power of the dialectic, subsequently enthralling audiences with a kind of permanent intellectual suspense for the next century. In Webber's case, he's talking about theology without any of the theological detail contemporary readers might have identified, engaging in obscure arguments with himself, along with theologians no one will ever care to look up, all buried in 100 pages of dialectic footnotes, thankfully, witho ...more
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
Sam Crisp
Jul 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
just read introduction and chapter 5
William Bies
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Max Weber’s thesis on the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism has been a locus classicus of the sociological debate for well over a century now, but it will come as little wonder that it is frequently misunderstood by those who pay insufficient attention to his original texts. This new complete edition offers not just the original essays of 1904-1906, but also Weber’s extensive annotations and replies to his critics added to the reprinting of 1920 as well as a modern introduction by Di ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
One exceptionally glaring omission - in this otherwise keen survey - is how and why (if at all) Protestantism was part and parcel of the separation from workers from the means of production and the development of the market in labor power. How did it justify this? Why did it justify it? Or did it simply not recognize this event (ideology)? While it's certainly true that Protestantism is the ideal religion to augment capitalism in society, Weber, in tracing the development from Luther, to Calvin, ...more
Ian Caveny
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
It's a classic argument: the Calvinists of the 17th century were so preoccupied with proving their salvific status that they put their focus into hard work and labor, developing a work ethic that has stayed with us even when its original heaven-or-hell anxiety has faded away. However we might view or understand Max Weber now, one hundred years later, credit is due him on a number of accounts: 1) he laid the foundations for sociology as a field of study; and 2) he was one of the earliest modern s ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weber's writing is amongst the most tedious I've ever read. However, the ideas were the amongst the most interesting. As was pointed out by my Canadian Studies prof., a peculiar oversight by Weber in his examination of the role of Protestantism in the development of capitalism was NOT looking at the French/English split in Canada. The idealistically 'pure' Catholic experiment of the French in Canada versus the Protestant English confirms in no uncertain terms the soundness of the argument Weber ...more
Chris Anderson
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's less scary that I find this book intellectually inspiring than that I find that it speaks to me on a personal level:

"The Puritan wanted to work in 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 economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of
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.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
The thesis is compelling, but the details of Weber's argument are tremendously flawed. I hardly recognised the Calvinism he was referring to. And his framing of Luther and Lutheranism was problematic, also. But the final chapter is magnificent and has some brilliant writing. Mixed, but one can see why it is an influential and lauded work.
Its so dry
Shane Hill
I will need to read this again!
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a cornerstone sociological work that Max Weber illustrates with excellent precision, and helps provide an adequate demostration as to why the US is the capitalist nation par excellence.
However, the Penguin edition falls short on a number of fronts. First of all is the lengthy introduction that becomes no more than a tedious chronology of the reception of Weber's work.
Then is the nature of the footnoting. Rather than using a more modern, kindle
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
-The importance of a calling as God's will
-Rationally organized lives with focus on earthly industry
-Fiscal success as demonstration of God's favor
-Spurning of worldly pleasures > frugality > capital accumulation

Now, the religious root has withered, leaving the culture behind. Applies most to the "golden age" of capital, the self-made man, vs the return to nobility capitalism I would say we have now
Matt Allen
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Schools assign this because Weber and his ideas were the foundation of modern sociology. I enjoyed it for different reasons. It was a thought provoking look at the asceticism of different branches of Protestantism. Asceticism is a fascinating subject for modern readers, whether they are religious or not. What would a modern asceticism look like? An asceticism out of the monastery? Long dead Protestant factions have already answered this pressing modern question and it’s fascinating to unearth th ...more
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(Arabic: ماكس فيبر)

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 t

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