SparkNotes: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: SummaryBegun as a series of essays, the original German text was composed in and , and was translated into English for the first time by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in In the book, Weber wrote that capitalism in Northern Europe evolved when the Protestant particularly Calvinist ethic influenced large numbers of people to engage in work in the secular world, developing their own enterprises and engaging in trade and the accumulation of wealth for investment. In other words, the Protestant work ethic was an important force behind the unplanned and uncoordinated emergence of modern capitalism. In , the International Sociological Association listed this work as the fourth most important sociological book of the 20th century. Although not a detailed study of Protestantism but rather an introduction to Weber's later studies of interaction between various religious ideas and economics The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism , The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism , and Ancient Judaism , The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism argues that Puritan ethics and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. The 'spirit of capitalism' does not refer to the spirit in the metaphysical sense but rather a set of values, the spirit of hard work and progress. Religious devotion, Weber argues, is usually accompanied by a rejection of worldly affairs, including the pursuit of wealth and possessions.
Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism : Summary
Max Weber was a German philosopher. He was deeply influenced by many other sociologists and thinkers such as Karl Marx , Immanuel Kant etc. Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism was regarded as the most important work of Weber. When capitalism is present without social differentiation of people, and when there is more freedom, it results in the participation of protestants in economic fields, management, and in industrial enterprises etc. Participation in the economic fields requires a wealthy background and an excellent education.
Weber helps to define and explain his early 20th century culture by tracing the influence of religious thought on capitalist values. Overall, he makes a historical argument for the importance of religion in contributing to capitalist culture. Amongst other differences, Protestants believed that working hard should be valued for its own sake. This meant that more Protestants were motivated to apply themselves to their secular professions than Catholics were. The core of Weber's argument is that the spirit of capitalism is an attitude that regards work as an end in and of itself. He believes the capitalist spirit exists in opposition to traditionalism—a system in which people worked only hard enough to get by. The capitalist spirit is different because it motivates people to work simply because they believe hard work is important.
Social Forces By Max Weber, 3d ed. Roxbury, Penguin, First translated into English by Talcott Parsons in , Weber's book has been reissued by no fewer than nine publishers in at least sixteen separate editions, not including the two new editions under consideration in this review. As of this writing, the Parsons translation has an Amazon. Indeed, among the sociological classics, only Democracy in America ranks higher 1, than The Protestant Ethic.
Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a study of the relationship between the ethics of ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism. Weber argues that the religious ideas of groups such as the Calvinists played a role in creating the capitalistic spirit. Weber first observes a correlation between being Protestant and being involved in business, and declares his intent to explore religion as a potential cause of the modern economic conditions. He argues that the modern spirit of capitalism sees profit as an end in itself, and pursuing profit as virtuous. Weber's goal is to understand the source of this spirit.