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Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Cardiff University, 2012

Social Theory II

Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism

(or how we learnt to stop worrying and love making money for other people)

Who is Weber?
Max Weber (vay-ber best German accents please!) 1864-1920
A historical sociologist in that he !sed history as empirical data to inform his theories (amply demonstrated by this chapter which disc!sses in depth the history of vario!s debates in Christianity) Weber did not seek to develop overarching !niversal models to e"plain h!man behavior# rather he traces back the potential ca!ses (like religion) of specific phenomena (like capitalism) thro!gh this historical data to provide ob$ective rationali%ations& 'olitically liberal (and actively involved in (erman politics even advising on the )reaty of *ersailles) and anti+!tilitarian Weber did not present himself as a religio!s man b!t was deeply fascinated by the infl!ence religion had on the development of society& )he book from which this chapter is taken The Protestant th!c an" the #p!r!t o$ %ap!tal!sm (,-./) is considered a seminal sociological te"t and is arg!ably still deeply relevant to !s now over ,.. years later since we contin!e to live in a capitalist society&

Who are all these people hes talking abo!t?

Richard Baxter 161&-1691 A prominent 0nglish 'resbyterian Christian and p!ritan (see Puritanism below) active in the 1estoration (of the 0nglish monarchy after the death of Cromwell) and renowned for his e"tensive theological writings (over 2.. te"ts3) which were significant in shaping Western Christianity both d!ring his lifetime and afterwards&

Calvin (John) 1&09-1&64 See Calvinism below&

Aquinas (St. Thomas) 122&-12'4 4edieval 1oman Catholic philosopher and theologian whose works formed the basis of )homism (h!gely infl!ential Catholic philosophy promoting ob$ective moral tr!th based on the !nchanging essence of (od and the primacy of the h!man so!l)& An advocate of Aristotelian ideas A5!inas was also a key fig!re of Scholasticism (see below)&

Ben amin !ran"lin 1'06-1'90 6ne of the fo!nding fathers of the 7nited States 8ranklin is 5!oted elsewhere in Webers book disc!ssing the spirit of capitalism and its cr!cial importance in the social formation of the 7SA&

Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Cardiff University, 2012

Social Theory II

Who knew there were so many ways to be a Christian?

Ascetic #rotestantism Ascetics of any religio!s pers!asion val!e abstinence cleanliness and p!rity above all else 'rotestantism originating in the ,9th Cent!ry forms one of the : ma$or strands of Christianity (with 1oman Catholicism and 6rthodo"y ; < always think of 'rotestantism as the least fancy Christianity3) and val!es the a!thority of the =ible and the importance of faith in (od over following ch!rch traditions and a!thorities&

#uritanism (enerally !sed as a derogatory term referring to deeply religio!s and pio!s 'rotestantism ; not a specific religio!s belief b!t rather a word characterising those who most strictly adhere to =iblical tenets& 1ecognisable by the e"plicit belief that (ods a!thority s!persedes all h!man matters and that the only worthy life is one dedicated wholly to >is works&

Calvinism 8ollowing the doctrines of Saint A!g!stine (if yo!re interested in this kind of st!ff then A!g!stines %on$ess!ons is a gen!inely bea!tif!l te"t and a thoro!ghly good read) Calvinism teaches that h!manity is inherently depraved and sinf!l and m!st seek atonement for their sins thro!gh !nconditional faith and love of (od& Calvinism also teaches that Christ did not die for all o!r sins b!t only those who follow the ch!rch& Accordingly it is strict abo!t =iblical adherence and dismisses the interference of rationality and reason with p!re faith in the script!re as the word of (od and the !ltimate a!thority&

$utheranism An early 'rotestant movement fo!nded in (ermany and still going strong today& <nstigated by 4artin ?!ther (no not that one@) in the ,9th Cent!ry when he called for the reformation of the 1oman Catholic ch!rch (leading to the advent of 'rotestanism)# a call which was widely taken !p across 0!rope& =elief in the centrality of and devotion to the =iblical te"ts (are yo! seeing a common theme here? What is so significant to Webers theory abo!t Christian movements that promote the =ible as the so!rce of tr!e faith as opposed to the traditions and lifestyle of the ch!rch as an organi%ation s!ch as in Catholicism?)


Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Cardiff University, 2012 Social Theory II Aot a religio!s doctrine per s() more a philosophical approach to st!dy made pop!lar thro!gh Christianity that is recognisable still in modern academia& =ased on dialectical debate (the weighing !p of two contrary positions in order to determine the best co!rse thro!gh reason and logical arg!ment) drawing !pon m!ltiple interpretations of te"ts& )he Scholasticism which Weber refers to is the Second Scholasticism which developed in the ,9th Cent!ry in the Catholic Ch!rch which relied !pon the opinions of the Ch!rch 8athers and comments !pon theological te"ts (i&e& not p!rely the =ible3 >ence perhaps Weber saying on page ,,: that they were despised)& <ts a bit conf!sing on page ,.B where Weber appears to be aligning the '!ritan view on the providential (i&e& determined by (od) nat!re of socioeconomic organi%ation with that of the Scholastics despite the fact that Scholasticism is heavily associated with Catholicism b!t remember that 'rotestantism developed from 1oman Catholicism and was not always a separate strand of Christianity& )herefore its beliefs have developed from Catholicism as m!ch as in reaction to it&

7m whats all this got to do with Capitalism again?

When yo!re reading this chapter its 5!ite conf!sing at the o!tset what point Weber is making& Whether this is beca!se were coming in halfway thro!gh a book or beca!se he $!st likes to conf!se !s is !nknown& >owever after several pages yo! sho!ld be getting an inkling as to what this is all abo!t& Weber is thinking abo!t the rapid spread of the Capitalist method of social organisation& <n other words why is it that the Western world (and he is partic!larly concerned with the 7SA which was on the c!sp of an economic boom when he was writing) has become so 5!ickly and thoro!ghly content with getting o!t of bed every morning to go and work demanding $obs for low wages and no prospects? )he sentiment motivating the chapter appears to be that Capitalism offers little to its workers and m!ch to its employers yet it governs o!r daily e"istence even now and Weber wants to !nderstand where o!r irrepressible instinct to be prod!ctive in this manner has come from ; this Spirit of Capitalism& As disc!ssed above Weber believes in !sing historical empirical data to e"plain phenomena and he seeks this e"planation in the dominant forms of Christian morality that governed Western lives before the almighty dollar (i&e& the !nending p!rs!it of wealth) became o!r god& ?iving in a Western co!ntry we are all Capitalist cogs here& 1eading and !nderstanding Webers arg!ment is not only worthwhile for yo!r e"amsC yo! might learn something really val!able abo!t the way yo! live yo!r life&

*emember) th!s sheet !s +,T a rev!s!on -.!"e ,* someth!n- yo. can /.ote0ta1e as -ospel tr.th) merely a personal an" 2".mbe" "o3n4 rea"!n- o$ the ma!n top!c o$ the te5t to -et yo. starte" an" en-a-e" 3!th !ts s.b6ect7 Get ye to the rea"!n- l!st $or some proper research!

Jennifer Lyttleton-Smith, Cardiff University, 2012

Social Theory II