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Essay on Weber's Approach to Religion and Sociology

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Weber's Approach to Religion and Sociology Weber's general approach to sociology is known as <'verstehen'
sociology; that human action is directed by meaning and that action
can only be understood by appreciating the world-view of the social
actor concerned. Since religion is an important component of the
social actors' world-view, religious beliefs can direct social action,
and hence bring about social change. In The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism, Weber explores the relationship between
religious ideas and social change, attempting to show how the ideas
and beliefs of Protestantism were particularly conducive to capitalist
development.

In explaining why capitalism developed first in Northern Europe Weber
argues that there was an affinity between religious belief (ascetic
Protestantism) and the ethos of capitalism - most notably in the
notion of accumulation. While other societies, such as India, had the
technology and monetary systems, their belief systems made the
development of rational capitalism unlikely.

Certain facets of Calvinistic doctrine actively promoted capitalist
development. Of particular importance was the doctrine of
predestination and its accompanying salvation panic.

How was the believer to know that they were one of the saved?

The key factor here was intense worldly activity since success was
regarded as a sign of election.

Surely God would not allow the ungodly to prosper?

Factors such as the emphasis on hard work, thrift, modesty and the
avoidance of idleness and self-indulgen...


... middle of paper ...


...be inevitable. He argued that
religious beliefs and practices could develop which would support and
guide popular challenges to the dominant class.

Otto Maduro, Religion and Social conflicts (l982) also argues for the
relative autonomy of religion:

Religion is not necessarily a functional, reproductive or conservative
factor in society: It often is one of the main (and sometimes the
only) available channels to bring about a social revolution.

Maduro argues that in a situation where there is no other outlet for
grievances, such as Latin America, the clergy become a variety of
Gramsci's proletarian intellectuals and provide guidance for the
oppressed in their struggle with dominant groups.

Whatever the merits of Webers particular theory, many sociologists do
now accept that religion can be a force for change.


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