To answer the age-old question of whether culture influences economics or economics influences culture, it may be of use to determine the etymology of the very word. The initial meaning of ‘culture,’ which traces back to fifteenth century France, denoted the tilling of land. This original connotation offers a link between culture and the economy, as people during this era cultivated the land for agricultural purposes and trade. While this definition has undergone great changes over the years, coming to signify the collective ideology of a particular group of people, its relationship to economics has long been a subject of historical debate. To answer which system shapes the other today, one can analyze current economic structures in various societies to reach the conclusion that culture influences economics. This method of analyzing given societies to arrive at a solution has been used for centuries by many great economists, some of which include Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Antonio Gramsci. Although exploring similar ideas, these theorists came to different conclusions. While Weber determined that culture shapes economics, Marx believed the contrary, with Gramsci offering a synthesis between the two theories. In today’s world, however, it is evident that the former stands true and that culture does, in fact, have an impact on the way society is economically organized.
One of the earliest attempts to identify culture as a significant influence on economic outcomes was made by Max Weber, a German philosopher who linked religion to the economy. In his work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he argues that the religious ideas of groups such as the Calvinists played a cru...
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...rough analyzing the economic and social constraints of the subordinated class, Gramsci attempts to uncover the relationship culture shares with these limitations. His concept of cultural hegemony acknowledges the ways in which the ruling class is able to create a set of moral, social, and political values that dominate the cultural ideologies of society. Through this, he shows that in order for a class to maintain its supremacy, it must hold the dominant culture. In this way, Gramsci aligns with Weber’s ideas and demonstrates not only how culture and economics are interconnected, but also how culture ultimately shapes the economy. This side of Gramsci’s argument, along with Weber’s claims, is reinforced by economies in the modern world such as the United States, thus adding support to their theories and signifying that human culture does indeed influence economics.
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