Protestant work ethic

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Cover of the original German edition of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Die protestantische Ethik und der 'Geist' des Kapitalismus original cover.jpg
Cover of the original German edition of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Protestant work ethic, the Calvinist work ethic, [1] or the Puritan work ethic [2] is a work ethic concept in theology, sociology, economics and history that emphasizes that hard work, discipline, and frugality [3] are a result of a person's subscription to the values espoused by the Protestant faith, particularly Calvinism.

Work ethic Belief in the virtues of labor

Work ethic is a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability, virtue or value to strengthen character and individual abilities. It is a set of values centered on importance of work and manifested by determination or desire to work hard. Social ingrainment of this value is considered to enhance character through hard work that is respective to an individual's field of work.

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also deals with religious epistemology, asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. Sociology is also defined as the general science of society. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

Contents

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–1905 [lower-alpha 1] by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism . [4] Weber asserted that Protestant ethics and values along with the Calvinist doctrine of asceticism and predestination gave birth to capitalism. [5] It’s one of the most influential and cited books in sociology although the thesis presented has been controversial since release. Historians such as Fernand Braudel and Hugh Trevor-Roper assert that the Protestant work ethic did not create capitalism and that capitalism developed in pre-Reformation Catholic communities.

Max Weber German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist

Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist. His ideas profoundly influenced social theory and social research. Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology. Weber was a key proponent of methodological anti-positivism, arguing for the study of social action through interpretive means, based on understanding the purpose and meaning that individuals attach to their own actions. Unlike Durkheim, he did not believe in monocausal explanations and rather proposed that for any outcome there can be multiple causes.

<i>The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism</i> 1905 book by Max Weber

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a book written by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. Begun as a series of essays, the original German text was composed in 1904 and 1905, and was translated into English for the first time by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in 1930. It is considered a founding text in economic sociology and a milestone contribution to sociological thought in general.

Asceticism lifestyle of frugality and abstinence of various forms, often for spiritual goals

Asceticism is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.

Basis in Protestant theology

Protestants, beginning with Martin Luther, reconceptualized worldly work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to consistently work diligently as a sign of grace. Whereas Catholicism teaches that good works are required of Catholics as a necessary manifestation of the faith they received, and that faith apart from works is dead (James 2:14–26) and barren, the Calvinist theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved.

Martin Luther Saxon priest, monk and theologian, seminal figure in Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther,, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

In Christian theology, good works, or simply works, are a person's (exterior) actions or deeds, in contrast to inner qualities such as grace or faith. In Judaism, a good work is also known in Hebrew as a mitzvah, and refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". Islamic theology holds that salvation is a combination of the grace of Allah and the works performed by the individual. On the Day of Judgment, if an individual's bad deeds are outweighed by their good works, he or she will be forgiven of all sin and then enter into Jannah (Paradise).

Since it was impossible to know who was predestined, the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was elect (predestined) by observing their way of life. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two important consequences of being one of the elect. Protestants were thus attracted to these qualities and supposed to strive for reaching them.

Unconditional election Calvinist doctrine that God has chosen from eternity those whom He will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people, but rather based on His mercy alone

Unconditional election is a Reformed doctrine relating to Predestination that describes the actions and motives of God in eternity past, before he created the world, where he predestinated some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God's law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.

American political history

Writer Frank Chodorov argued that the Protestant ethic was long considered indispensable for American political figures:

Frank Chodorov American libertarian thinker

Frank Chodorov was an American member of the Old Right, a group of libertarian thinkers who were non-interventionist in foreign policy and opposed to both the American entry into World War II and the New Deal. He was called by Ralph Raico "the last of the Old Right greats."

There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the "log cabin." He may have acquired a competence, or even a fortune, since then, but it was in the tradition that he must have been born of poor parents and made his way up the ladder by sheer ability, self-reliance, and perseverance in the face of hardship. In short, he had to be "self made." The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God. Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect. One who was born "with a silver spoon in his mouth" might be envied, but he could not aspire to public acclaim; he had to live out his life in the seclusion of his own class. [6]

Some political scientists have described the term as a myth invented to assert White Anglo-Saxon Protestant superiority. [7] Many have connected this belief to racism. [8] [9] For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, here and abroad. [10]

Support

There has been a revitalization of Weber's interest, including the work of Lawrence Harrison, Samuel P. Huntington, and David Landes. In a New York Times article, published in June 8, 2003, Niall Ferguson pointed that data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) seems to confirm that "the experience of Western Europe in the past quarter-century offers an unexpected confirmation of the Protestant ethic. To put it bluntly, we are witnessing the decline and fall of the Protestant work ethic in Europe. This represents the stunning triumph of secularization in Western Europe—the simultaneous decline of both Protestantism and its unique work ethic." [11]

Criticism

Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalism began in Italy in the 14th century, not in the Protestant areas of Europe. [12] Other factors that further developed the European market economy included the strengthening of property rights and lowering of transaction costs with the decline and monetization of feudalism, and the increase in real wages following the epidemics of bubonic plague. [13]

Sascha Becker and Ludger Wossmann at the University of Munich have written a discussion paper describing an alternate theory. The abstract to this states that the literacy gap between Protestants (as a result of the Reformation) and Catholics sufficiently explains the economic gaps, and that the "[r]esults hold when we exploit the initial concentric dispersion of the Reformation to use distance to Wittenberg as an instrument for Protestantism." [14] However, they also note that, between Luther (1500) and 1871 Prussia, the limited data available has meant that the period in question is regarded as a "black box" and that only "some cursory discussion and analysis" is possible. [15]

Historian Fernand Braudel wrote "all historians have opposed this tenuous theory [the Protestant Ethic], although they have not managed to be rid of it once and for all. Yet it is clearly false. The northern countries took over the place that earlier had been so long and brilliantly been occupied by the old capitalist centers of the Mediterranean. They invented nothing, either in technology or business management." [16]

Social scientist Rodney Stark comments that "during their critical period of economic development, these northern centers of capitalism were Catholic, not Protestant — the Reformation still lay well into the future." He also summarized the finding of other leading modern historians thus, "Protestants were not more likely to hold the high-status capitalist positions than were Catholics. Catholic areas of western Europe did not lag in their industrial development. And even more obvious at the time Weber wrote was that fully developed capitalism had appeared in Europe many centuries before the Reformation!" [17] British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper said, "The idea that large-scale industrial capitalism was ideologically impossible before the Reformation is exploded by the simple fact that it existed." [18]

See also

Notes

  1. No exact date is known. The term appeared to the public with the publication of his book in 1905.

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References

  1. The Idea of Work in Europe from Antiquity to Modern Times by Catharina Lis
  2. Ryken, Leland (2010). Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were. Harper Collins. pp. 51–. ISBN   978-0-310-87428-7.]
  3. "Protestant Ethic". Believe: Religious Information Source.
  4. Weber, Max (2003) [First published 1905]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Parsons, Talcott. New York: Dover. ISBN   9780486122373.
  5. https://www.tutor2u.net/sociology/reference/sociology-weber-calvinism-and-spirit-of-modern-capitalism
  6. Chodorov, Frank (21 March 2011). "The Radical Rich". Mises Daily Articles. Mises Institute.
  7. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-myth-of-the-protestant-work-ethic/
  8. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Protestant-work-ethic's-relation-to-intergroup-and-Rosenthal-Levy/6d75a317aeb8db7d17fd02505d427beff4990fe7
  9. https://newrepublic.com/article/121901/white-protestant-roots-american-racism
  10. https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-12-04/smiley-capitalism-has-always-been-built-back-poor-both-black-and-white
  11. Ferguson, Niall (8 June 2003). "The World; Why America Outpaces Europe (Clue: The God Factor)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  12. Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1994), "Part II From the Beginning to the First Classical Situation (to about 1790), chapter 2 The scholastic Doctors and the Philosophers of Natural Law", History of Economic Analysis, pp. 74–75, ISBN   978-0-415-10888-1, OCLC   269819 . In the footnote, Schumpeter refers to Usher, Abbott Payson (1943). The Early History of Deposit Banking in Mediterranean Europe. Harvard economic studies ;v. 75. Harvard university press. and de Roover, Raymond (December 1942). "Money, Banking, and Credit in Medieval Bruges". Journal of Economic History. 2, supplement S1: 52–65. doi:10.1017/S0022050700083431.
  13. Voigtlander, Nico; Voth, Hans-Joachim (9 October 2012). "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe" (PDF). The Review of Economic Studies. 80 (2): 774–811. CiteSeerX   10.1.1.303.2638 . doi:10.1093/restud/rds034.
  14. Becker, Sascha O.; Wößmann, Ludger (2007), Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History - Munich Discussion Paper No. 2007-7 (PDF), Munich: Department of Economics University of Munich, retrieved 12 September 2012
  15. Becker, Wossmann (2007) page A5 Appendix B
  16. Braudel, Fernand. 1977. Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  17. "Protestant Modernity".
  18. Trevor-Roper. 2001. The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century. Liberty Fund

Further reading

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