The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Published: Unwin Hyman, London & Boston, 1930; Translated: Talcott Parsons, Anthony Giddens; Transcribed: by Andy Blunden February 2005; CopyLeft: this text is completely free.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification Chapter 2: The Spirit of Capitalism Chapter 3: Luther’sConception of the Calling Chapter 4: The Religious Foundations of Worldly Asceticism A: Calvinism B: Pietism C: Methodism D: The Baptist Sects Chapter 5: Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905
Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification
A glance at the occupational statistics of any country of mixed religiouscomposition brings to light with remarkable frequency a situation which has several times provoked discussion in the Catholic press and literature, and in Catholic congresses in Germany, namely, the fact that business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labor, and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, areoverwhelmingly Protestant. This is true not only in cases where the difference in religion coincides with one of nationality, and thus of cultural development, as in Eastern Germany between Germans and Poles. The same thing is shown in the figures of religious affiliation almost wherever capitalism, at the time of its great expansion, has had a free hand to alter the social distribution of thepopulation in accordance with its needs, and to determine its occupational structure. The more freedom it has had, the more clearly is the effect shown. It is true that the greater relative participation of Protestants in the ownership of capital, in management, and the upper ranks of labor in great modern industrial and commercial enterprises, may in part be explained in terms of historicalcircumstances, which extend far back into the past, and in which religious affiliation is not a cause of the economic conditions, but to a certain extent appears to be a result of them. Participation in the above economic functions usually involves some previous ownership of capital, and generally an expensive education; often both. These are today largely dependent on the possession of inherited wealth, or atleast on a certain degree of material well being. A number of those sections of the old Empire which were most highly developed economically and most favored by natural resources and situation, in particular a majority of the wealthy towns went over to Protestantism in the sixteenth century The results of that circumstance favor the Protestants even today in their struggle for economic existence.There arises thus the historical question: why were the districts of highest economic development at the same time particularly favorable to a revolution in the Church? The answer is by no means so simple as one might think.
The emancipation from economic traditionalism appears, no doubt, to be a factor which would greatly strengthen the tendency to doubt the sanctity of the religioustradition, as of all traditional authorities. But it is necessary to note, what has often been forgotten, that the Reformation meant not the elimination the Church’s control over everyday life, but rather the substitution of a new form of control for the previous one. It meant the repudiation of a control which was very lax, at that time scarcely perceptible in practice, and hardly more than formal, infavor of a regulation, of the whole of conduct which, penetrating to all departments of private and public life, was infinitely burdensome and earnestly enforced. The rule of the Catholic Church, “punishing the heretic, but indulgent to the sinner,” as it was in the past even more than today, is now tolerated by peoples of thoroughly modern economic character, and was borne by the richest and...