Weber argues that Puritan ethics and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. Further, the new religions, such as Calvinism, forbade wastefully using hard-earned money and labeled the purchase of luxuries as a sin. According to Weber, capitalism was the accumulation of wealth and deeply rooted in rationality; to him capitalism emerged victorious over tradition and was as a result of a disciplined labor force. According to this ethic, work was the basic human good. The way these issues were resolved, Weber argued, was to invest the money—a move that gave a large boost to capitalism. He used his own methodology of social action and ideal type in this essay. Weber’s famous book set out to understand Western civilization and the development of capitalism. Weber found that under the influence of Protestant religions, especially Puritanism, individuals were religiously compelled to follow a secular vocation with as much enthusiasm as possible. Calvinism’s antipathy to the worship of the flesh, its emphasis on the religious duty to make fruitful use of the God-given resources at each individual’s disposal, and its orderliness and systemization of ways of life were also regarded by Weber as economically significant aspects of the ethic. When capitalism is defined as the pursuit of forever-renewable profit, capitalism can be said to be part of every civilization at any time in history. Weber's conclusion is a unique one. Although English historian R.H. Tawney accepted Weber’s thesis, he expanded it in his Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) by arguing that political and social pressures and the spirit of individualism with its ethic of self-help and frugality were more significant factors in the development of capitalism than was Calvinist theology. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a book written by sociologist and economist Max Weber in 1904-1905. Weber’s thesis was criticized by various writers, especially Kurt Samuelsson in Religion and Economic Action (1957). The Protestant Ethic is a remarkable collection of insights and historical evidence about the doctrine and practice of the different protestant denominations — although it does become less than interesting after the first 50 pages. One especially influential idea that Weber articulated in The Protestant Ethic was the concept of the "iron cage." But it is in the West, Weber claims, that it has developed to an extraordinary degree. The Protestant Ethic is a remarkable collection of insights and historical evidence about the doctrine and practice of the different protestant denominations — although it does become less than interesting after the first 50 pages. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. While Weber was influenced by Karl Marx, he was not a Marxist and even criticizes aspects of Marxist theory in this book. By Samuel Gregg. Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a study of the relationship between the ethics of ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism. Weber arrived at the protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism by analyzing the three religions; the Catholicism, Lutheranism and the protestant denominations and related the analysis to the extent they could bring p… Definition and Main Theorists, Understanding Karl Marx's Class Consciousness and False Consciousness, The Three Historic Phases of Capitalism and How They Differ, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/11/29/why-work. In this book, Weber also put forward the idea of the “iron cage,” a theory about why social and economic structures are often resistant to change. The original version was in German and it was translated into English by Talcott Parsons in 1930. In other words, hard work and finding success in one’s occupation were highly valued in societies influenced by Protestantism. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Protestant-ethic, Academia - The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Protestant ethic - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Importantly, even after religion became less important in society, these norms of hard work and frugality remained, and continued to encourage individuals to pursue material wealth. These religions also frowned upon donating money to the poor or to charity because it was seen as promoting beggary. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. This theory suggests that an economic system can become a restrictive force that can prevent change and perpetuate its own failings. Based on historical observation and analysis, Weber theorized this was because these were the only two countries in which Protestantism was the predominant religion, rather than Catholicism, which was the formal religion of every other European country. German sociologist Max Weber, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–05), held that the Protestant ethic was an important factor in the economic success of … A summary of Part X (Section2) in Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. This scenario was only evident in European countries and more particularly in protestant nations. Because of this accumulation of wealth, individuals began to invest money—which paved the way for the development of capitalism. It carefully presents the numerous and impor- tant nuances of Weber’s text, giving a clear idea of the place of this text in the intellectual framework of his time. It's compelling because it provides an ego boost for Protestant churches and justification for workaholics across the globe. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. He who worked was meritorious and should prosper, he who suffered did so because he did not work. Enduring idea Although the theory of a Protestant work ethic has lost support in academic circles, the concept isn't going away anytime soon, researchers said. Because people are socialized within a particular economic system, Weber claims, they may be unable to imagine a different system. The association of Protestantism with capitalism, famously articulated by Max Weber and now widely accepted by many, is theologically dubious, empirically disprovable, and largely incidental.