Max Weber’s "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism"

2423 Words10 Pages
Max Weber’s work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is arguably one of the most important works in all of sociology and social theory, both classical and modern. In the decades since its inception, this work has gone on to influence generations of social scientists with its analysis of the effect of Protestantism on the development of modern industrial capitalism. This work, examining such broad topics as religion, economics, and history, is not only an interesting and insightful look into the history of the development of capitalism, but a major work in laying a foundation for future works of social theory.

Max Weber’s main contention in this work is that what he calls the “Protestant Ethic” played a vital role in fostering the development of industrial capitalism in Europe and the United States. The Protestant Ethic was the idea found in some sects of Protestantism that one had a duty to God to succeed in their life’s work, but were bound to a lifestyle of asceticism that prevented them from spending the wealth they earned on themselves. The wealth that was accumulated through this lifestyle was reinvested into the work process in order to create more wealth. This continual reinvestment of wealth provided the necessary capital and conditions that allowed for the development of modern capitalism.

Weber starts out his essay with a few questions that he proposes to try and answer. He notices that European business leaders are overwhelmingly Protestant instead of Catholic. He also notices that the most developed areas of Europe in his time where ones that had embraced Protestantism (Weber, 4). The question then was, why did areas with economic development and growth respond positively to a revolution in the Churc...

... middle of paper ...

...frastructure and factories that heralded the onset of modern capitalism. The only other source with the resources available to commit to this type of investment would have been the state, which would not necessarily have seen the need to invest in this manner when they already had possession of large quantities of wealth.

Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism lays a theoretical basis for the creation, development, and sustainability of modern industrial capitalism. This in-depth work shows the extent to which Weber managed to connect the various fields of sociology, history, economics, and religion into one cohesive argument. This work is an example of a broad-reaching work of social theory, and needs to be studied not only for the ideas contained therein, but to understand the methodological approach behind such a sociological masterpiece.
Open Document