Recently I have read the following book. A book summary is as follows:
Max Weber. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism; translated by Talcott Parsons; introduction by Anthony Giddens. New York: Charles Scribbner's Sons, 1976.
Ch.1: a glance at the occupational statistics provoked a discussion over the fact that business leaders and owners of capital were overwhelmingly Protestants (35). Several observations suggested that the supposed conflict between other-worldliness, asceticism on the one side, and participation in capitalistic acquisition on the other, might actually turn out to have an intimate relationship (42).
Ch.2: it tries to find out the conceptual formulation of the spirit of capitalism (47). It was free from all relationship to religion, it advocated ‘time is money’, ‘credit is money’, and ‘money can beget money’ (48-49). It was Benjamin Ranklin who preached the ethos which had the spirit of capitalism (50-1). It would suffice to note that without doubt, in the country of Benjamin Frankin’s birth (Massachusetts), the spirit of capitalism was present before the capitalistic order (55). The spirit of capitalism had to fight its way to supremacy against hostile forces. In the ancient times and in the Middle Ages, it was the lowest sort of avarice, lacking in self-respect (56). The traditional thinking was that the opportunity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less (60). We used the expression spirit of (modern) capitalism to describe the attitude which sought profit rationally and systematically, as illustrated by Benjamin Franklin. Rationalism meant to rationalize life from fundamentally different basic points of view and in very different directions. Rationalism was a historical concept (78).
Ch. 3: Calling, a religious conception, could be seen as a task set by God (79). The moral justification of worldly activity was one of the most important results of the Reformation, especially of Luther’s part in it (the fulfillment of worldly duties is the only way to live acceptably to God (81). Yet Reformation was by no means friendly to capitalism (82). For Luther the concept of calling remained traditionalistic. His calling was something which man had to accept as divine ordinance, to which he should adapt himself. The work in the calling was the task set by God (85). The study in this book contributes to the understanding of the manner in which an idea became an effective force in history (90). The book wants to ascertain whether and to what extent religious forces had taken part in the expansion of the spirit over the world (91).
Ch.4: In history there were four principle forms of ascetic Protestantism: Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism, and sects came from the Baptist movement (95). Calvinism in 16th and 17th century had the doctrine of predestination which was considered as its most characteristic dogma. It was viewed by the authority as politically dangerous and was thus attacked (99). This chapter, after examining the emphasis found in the ascetic movements of these four religions, found a common point: the conception of the state of religious grace, as a status which marked off its possessor from the degradation of the fresh in the world. But the grace could not be guaranteed by any magical sacraments, or by relief in the confession, or by individual good works. That was only possible only by proof in a specific type of conduct: by penetrating one’s conduct with asceticism. This ascetic conduct meant a ration planning of the whole of one’s life in accordance with God’s will. It was required of everyone who would be certain of salvation (153). The life of saints no longer lived outside the world in monastic communities, but within the world and its institutions. This rationalization of conduct within this world was the consequence of the concept of calling in ascetic Protestantism (154). Christian asceticism now strode into the market-place of life (154).
Ch. 5: for the purpose of this chapter, since Puritanism gave the most consistent religious basis for the idea of calling, it was at the center of discussion and was picked as the representative. Richard Baxter was a Presbyterian. He worked for the Parliamentary Government. He stood out among writers on Puritan ethics and his works were focused for this research. Baxter’s writing struck readers by its emphasis placed in the discussion of wealth and it acquisition (156). He permitted the clergy to employ their means profitably. The only real moral objection was to relaxation in the security of possession, the enjoyment of wealth with the consequence of idleness and the temptations of flesh, and above all the distraction of from the pursuit of a righteous life. Not leisure and enjoyment, but only activities served to increase the glory of God, according to the definite manifestations of His will. A waste of time was thus the first and in principle the deadliest of sins (157). A man without a calling thus lacked the systemic, methodical character which was demanded by the worldly asceticism (161). What God demanded was not labour itself, but rational labour in a calling (162). The usefulness of a calling was measured primarily in moral terms, yet in practice the most important criterion was found in private profitableness (162). Wealth was bad ethically only in so far as it was a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition was bad only when it was with the purpose of later living merrily and without care (163). This worldly asceticism broke the bond of the impulse of acquisition in that it not only legalized it, but looked upon it as directly willed by God. God was not against the rational acquisition of wealth, but against the irrational use of it. (171). The accumulation of capital through ascetic compulsion made possible the productive investment of capital (172). One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism: rational conduct on the basis of the idea of ‘calling’ was born from the spirit of Christian asceticism. The spirit of capitalism was the same as the Puritan worldly asceticism, only without the religious basis (180).
Thesis of the book:
One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism: the rational conduct of a person regarding wealth was born from the spirit of Christian asceticism on the basis of the idea of the ‘calling’. The spirit of capitalism now we know is the same as the Puritan worldly asceticism, only without the religious basis (180).