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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [Paperback]

Max Weber
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 4 2003 Economy Editions
The Protestant ethic — a moral code stressing hard work, rigorous self-discipline, and the organization of one's life in the service of God — was made famous by sociologist and political economist Max Weber. In this brilliant study (his best-known and most controversial), he opposes the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism and its view that change takes place through "the struggle of opposites." Instead, he relates the rise of a capitalist economy to the Puritan determination to work out anxiety over salvation or damnation by performing good deeds — an effort that ultimately discouraged belief in predestination and encouraged capitalism. Weber's classic study has long been required reading in college and advanced high school social studies classrooms.

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One of the most renowned and controversial works of modern social science.
–Anthony Giddens

Max Weber is the one undisputed canonical figure in contemporary sociology.
–Times Higher Education Supplement --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

A brilliant book which studies the psychological conditions which made possible the development of capitalist civilization. The book analyzes the connection between the spread of Calvinism and a new attitude toward the pursuit of wealth in post-Reformation Europe and England, and attitude which permitted, encouraged--even sanctified--the human quest for prosperity. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great June 3 2008
By elfdart TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
this book was somewhat difficult to get through because of the footnotes (i have trouble with footnotes), once you get that point though, it's a fantastic book. it discusses why the capitalist system we have now, and the morality we have now is the way it is. we have all heard of the protestant ethic yes? it is that you must work hard, without pleasuring yourself too much, for the sake of pleasing god. working as hard as you can allows a person to 'most effectively' utilize the gifts god has given them, but they cannot take pleasure in the fruits if this because too much pleasure would result in the breaking of some sin, greed or sloth or what have you, pretty much all of them can be connected i'm sure. but if you can't have fun with what you're working so hard to create, why work so hard? because you are pleasing god, setting yourself up for the next life if you will. well this is wonderful for a historical reference, but we're very much secularized in society today so why does any of this matter? well, weber contends that a man named calvin (yes calvinism) took the protestant ethic and tied it to capitalism. calvin took the protestant ethic, which was good because it got things done with little complaint from the workers, and connected it to the economic system by turning god into money. we can imagine the problems with this, if nothing else, there would be trouble behind the fact that what motivated people before was spiritual, and now we expect the same results because of different motivations. that's like using a car to float down a river instead of a boat. ya cars go forward wonderfully, on the medium they were designed for.

so now we all ascetically put ourselves into our work towards the end of making more money.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A must-read work, but it has its problems... Oct. 31 2001
Format:Paperback
Rather than a general theory or explanation of either economics or religion, Weber attempts to draw a specific link between what he sees as the conjunction of the work ethic of Protestant (mainly Calvinist) spiritual teachings, and the success of Western European Capitalism.
Weber is an astute analyst, in many ways. He rightly notes that often the 'sine qua non' of Capitalism is thought of as "greed". Arguing against this notion, Weber points out that all societies have had greedy people within their particular economic system-greed is thus a factor irrespective of economic systems. Replacing this, Weber proposes that the "spirit" of Capitalism be thought of as a particular moral attitude towards work and idleness-an attitude that holds that constant and diligent work for its own sake is a moral imperative. In the face of what Weber calls "the radical elimination of magic from the world" this work ethic was the existential option left for people in terms of atonement and personal compensation for inadequacies. I believe that these two insights are right on target.
If there is a weakness involved in his characterization of this Protestant "Ethic," it lies in the fact that Weber attempts to draw a strict dichotomy in the origins of this ethic. He states forcefully that this ethic does not come out of any Enlightenment thought. The problem with trying to separate this ethic from the Enlightenment, is that this ethic which posits diligent work for its own sake is clearly found in the ethics of Immanuel Kant, who classified this kind of work and labor as a "duty" (ethical rule) that the self has to itself. In other words, how much of this is the legacy of the Reformation and how much of this is the legacy of the Enlightenment?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The main point in Weber's *The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism* is that the Protestant ethic helped to shape values favorable to the birth of capitalism. Despite that, the author isn't a cultural determinist because he takes care to point out that values help to shape an outcome, but don't produce it for certain.

This book is quite interesting, and includes lots of interesting observations regarding Weber's main premise, despite not being overly long. For instance, the author says that due to the fact that Protestant ethic viewed hard work as a duty and looked down on excesive luxuries, Protestants were indirectly encouraged to save almost all the money they earnt, thus increasing the funds available for the capitalist process. Of course, there are many more examples that contribute to give weight to Weber's argument, but to know more you will need to read *The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism* ...

Weber analyses some data at his disposal, and that makes some chapters slightly less engaging. Notwithstanding that, this book is likely to be worth your time and your money. To start with, you will learn quite a few interesting facts you probably were unaware of before. Secondly, and in a more frivolous vein, you will finally know what everybody is talking about when they mention directly or indirectly this book from time to time :)

All in all, I recommend this book to those interested in Sociology or Cultural Studies, but also to curious people who want to know more about the influence of culture in different processes. Enjoy it !

Belen Alcat
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The fear of being not preferred later on ...
Max Weber (1864-1920) had noticed that Protestants appeared excessively under the numbers of people who economically were successful. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2005 by FrizzText
4.0 out of 5 stars The Essence Of National Liberalism...
courtesy of America's great technocracy tectonician.
The theoretical legacy of Max Weber -- namely, sociology as an independent science only dubiously dependent upon either... Read more
Published on March 23 2004 by Jeffrey Rubard
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books in social science
As it is one of the most important and influential masterpieces in the history of the social science, if you can understand the analytical methods used in this book, the rest is... Read more
Published on March 3 2004 by Masahiko OKAZAKI
4.0 out of 5 stars Historically Significant
My spin is that Weber's work is helpful in that so many writers reference him that you need to know what he said in order to comprehend the point they're making. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003 by Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Founding book of economic sociology
This book is the founder of the prolific field of eocnomic sociology. It introduces the concept that culture (in the form of the protestant ethic) is better adapted to fit... Read more
Published on March 9 2003 by Denis Benchimol Minev
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious history, written before we became so comic
THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM by Max Weber is the kind of book which I imagined was important in my youth. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2003 by Bruce P. Barten
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of cultural studies
This book is legendary. Max Weber arguably was the first social scientists who devoted his life's work to cross-cultural studies. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2002 by Bjorn Brekke
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Weber's work is, among other things, a great example of what happens when research goes bad. His work is most significant to academia because it shows what can happen when a... Read more
Published on Dec 18 2001 by Charlotte A. Hu
4.0 out of 5 stars read this book at your own peril
As a generous present to all would-be social critics, Max Weber left us with "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," probably the most insightful work ever... Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2000 by ChairmanLuedtke
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