The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Max Weber, Stephen Kalberg, Stephen Kalberg

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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Max Weber, Stephen Kalberg, Stephen Kalberg

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For the first time in 70 years, a new translation of Max Weber's classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism --one of the seminal works in sociology-- published in September 2001. Translator Stephen Kalberg is an internationally acclaimed Weberian scholar, and in this new translation he offers a precise and nuanced rendering that captures both Weber's style and the unusual subtlety of his descriptions and causal arguments. Weber's original italicization, highlighting major themes, has been restored, and Kalberg has standardized Weber's terminology to better facilitate understanding of the various twists and turns in his complex lines of reasoning.Weber's compelling work remains influential for these reasons: it explores the continuing debate regarding the origins and legacy of modem capitalism in the West; it helps the reader understand today's global economic development; and it plumbs the deep cultural forces that affect contemporary work life and the workplace in the United States and Europe.This new edition/translation also includes a glossary; Weber's 1906 essay, "The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism"; and Weber's masterful prefatory remarks to his Collected Essays in the Sociology of Religion, in which he defines the uniqueness of Western societies and asks what "ideas and interests" combined to create modem Western rationalism

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Notes for The Protestant Ethic

Chapter I

1. From the voluminous literature on this study I am citing only the most comprehensive criticisms, (a) Felix Rachfahl, “Kalvinismus und Kapitalismus,” Internationale Wochenschrift fĂŒr Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik (1909), nos. 39–43. In reply, see my article, “Antikritisches zum Geist des Kapitalismus,” Archiv fĂŒr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 30 (1910): 176–202. Rachfahl then replied in his “Nochmals Kalvinismus und Kapitalismus,” 1910, nos. 22–25, of the Internationale Wochenschrift. Finally, my “Antikritisches Schlusswort” (Final Word), Archiv 31 (1910): 554–99. [These essays, and further “critical” comments and “anti-critical” responses by Weber (1907–10), have been collected into one volume. See Max Weber: Die protestantische Ethik II, edited by Johannes Winckelmann (GĂŒtersloh: GĂŒtersloher Verlag, 1978). Weber’s responses to his critics are now available in English. See The Protestant Ethic Debate: Max Weber’s Replies to His Critics, 1907–1910, edited by David Chalcraft and Austin Harrington (translated by Harrington and Mary Shields, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001). Weber occasionally refers in the notes below to “the critics” and to his “anti-critical” replies. These terms refer to this early debate.] (Brentano, in the criticism presently to be referred to, evidently did not know of this last phase of the discussion, as he does not refer to it.) I have not incorporated anything in this edition from the rather unproductive (unavoidably) polemics against Rachfahl. He is an author whom I otherwise admire, but who has in this instance ventured into a field he has not thoroughly mastered. I have only added a few supplementary references from my anti-critical replies, and have attempted, in new passages and footnotes, to make impossible any future misunderstanding, (b) Werner Sombart, Der Bourgeois (Munich and Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1913) [The Quintessence of Capitalism (New York: Howard Fertig, 1967)]. I shall return in the notes below to this volume. Finally, (c) Lujo Brentano in part 2 of the appendix to his Munich address (in the Academy of Sciences, 1913) on Die AnfĂ€nge [Beginnings] des modernen Kapitalismus [see note 15 below], which was published in 1916. [See ch. 3, excursus 2 on “Puritanism and Capitalism,” pp. 117–57]. I shall also refer to this criticism in the notes in the proper places.
I invite anyone who may be interested to convince himself by comparison that in revision I have not left out, changed the meaning of, weakened, or added materially different statements to a single essential sentence of my essay. There was no occasion to do so, and the development of my argument will convince anyone who still doubts. Sombart and Brentano engaged in a more bitter quarrel with each other than with me. I consider Brentano’s criticism of Sombart’s book [published in 1911; translated in 1913 as The Jews and Modern Capitalism (New York: Burt Franklin)] in many points well founded, but often very unjust, even apart from the fact that Brentano does not himself seem to understand the real essence of the problem of the Jews (which is entirely omitted from this essay, but will be dealt with later). [See Economy and Society (E&S) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 611–23; Ancient Judaism (New York: Free Press, 1952)].
From theologians I have received numerous valuable suggestions in connection with this study. Its reception on their part has been in general friendly and objective, even when wide differences of opinion on particular points were apparent. This is all the more valuable to me since 1 would not have been surprised by a certain hostility toward the way in which these matters were necessarily treated here. What to a theologian is valuable in his religion naturally cannot play a very large part in this study. We are concerned with what, if evaluated from a religious point of view, are often quite external and unrefined aspects of religious life. These aspects, however, precisely because they were external and unrefined, have often had the strongest influence.
Another book that, besides containing many other themes, is a very welcome confirmation of and supplement to this essay, insofar as it addresses our problem, is the important work of [Ernst] Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1960 [1912]). It treats the entire history of the ethics of Western Christianity from a very comprehensive, and unique, point of view. I here refer the reader to Troeltsch for general comparison, as I cannot refer to his work repeatedly in respect to particular points. Troeltsch is principally concerned with the doctrines of religion, while I am interested rather in the practical effect of religion, [entire note from 1920]
2. The deviant cases are explained (not always but frequently) if we note that the religion of an industry’s labor force is naturally, in the first instance, determined by the religion of the locality in which the industry is situated (that is, from which its labor is drawn). This circumstance often alters the impression given at first glance by statistics on religious affiliation, for instance in [the highly Catholic] state of North-Rhine Westphalia. Furthermore, figures can naturally be relied upon only if the particular occupations have become thoroughly specialized. Otherwise, in some situations, very large employers may be thrown together, under the category “proprietors of companies,” with “master craftsmen,” who work alone. Above all, the fully developed capitalism of today, especially so far as its broad, unskilled labor force is concerned, has become independent of any influence that religion may have had in the past. More on this point later.
3. Compare, for example, Hermann Schell, Der Katholizismus als Prinzip des Fortschrittes (WĂŒrzburg: Andreas Gobel, 1899), p. 31, and Georg Freiherr von Hertling, Das Prinzip des Katholizismus und die Wissenschaft (Freiburg: Herder, 1899), p. 58.
4. One of my students has thoroughly studied the most complete statistical material we possess on this subject: the denominational affiliation statistics of [the state of] Baden. See Martin Offenbacher, “Konfession und soziale Schichtung,” Eine Studie ĂŒber die wirtschaftliche Lage der Katholiken und Protestanten in Baden (TĂŒbingen and Leipzig: Mohr, 1901), vol. 4, pt. 5, of the Volkswirtschaftliche Abhandlungen der badischen Hochschulen. The facts and figures used for illustrative purposes below all originate from this study.
5. Germans (Protestants) and Poles (Catholics) lived side by side until World War II in what is today western Poland (Silesia) [sk].
6. For example, in 1895 in [the state of] Baden, for every 1,000 Protestants a tax of 954,060 marks was collected for property that produced taxable income; 589,000 marks was collected for every 1,000 Catholics. It is true that the Jews, with more than four million marks for every 1,000 Jews, were far ahead of the rest. (For details see Offenbacher, op. cit., p. 21.)
7. On this point compare the whole discussion in Offenbacher’s study.
8. Offenbacher provides for Baden more detailed evidence also on this point in his first two chapters.
9. As innumerable commentators have noted, Herrschaft is a particularly difficult term to translate. It implies both legitimate authority and a coercive, dominating component. I will employ (following the translation in Weber’s major analytic work, E&S) “domination” throughout. This appears appropriate as Weber occasionally uses the term AutoritĂ€t (authority) in The Protestant Ethic volume [sk].
10. The population of Baden was composed in 1895 as follows: Protestants, 37.0 percent; Catholics, 61.3 percent; Jews, 1.5 percent. The percentage of students who attended the noncompulsory schools [beyond the primary level] were, however, divided as follows (Offenbacher, p. 16):
Protestant Catholic Jews
Percent Percent Percent
Gymnasien 44 46 9
Realgymnasien 60 30 10
Oberrealschulen 52 40 8
Realschulen 50 39 11
Höhere BĂŒrgerschulen 49 40 11
Average 48 42 10
[Moving from top to bottom of this table, the curricula in the schools move away from an emphasis on the classical liberal arts, including ancient languages, and toward modern languages, science, and mathematics. This school system was replaced with a three-track system in the 1950s. On the basis of re-computation, Offenbacher’s statistics were revised slightly by the German editor (Winckelmann). I have rounded his percentages.]
The same proportions may be observed in Prussia, Bavaria, WĂŒrttemberg, the German-speaking territories, and Hungary (see figures in Offenbacher, pp. 18 ff).
11. The figures in the preceding note indicate that Catholic attendance at secondary schools, which is regularly one-third less than the Catholic share of the total population, is exceeded, by a small percentage, only in the case of the Gymnasien (mainly as a result of preparation for theological studies). With reference to the subsequent discussion it may further be noted as characteristic that, in Hungary, those affiliated with the Reformed [Calvinist] church exceed even the average Protestant [Lutheran] record of attendance at secondary schools. (See Offenbacher, p. 19, note.)
12. For the figures see Offenbacher (p. 54) and the tables at the end of his study.
13. This is especially well illustrated by passages in the studies of Sir William Petty [Political Arithmetick (London: Henry Mortlock, 1687)] (which will be referred to repeatedly later).
14. Petty’s occasional reference [to the contrary in] the case of Ireland is very simply explained by the fact that the Protestant stratum lived in Ireland only as absentee landlords. If his illustrations had meant to maintain more he would have been wrong (as is well-known), as is demonstrated by the position of the “Scotch-Irish.” The typical relationship between Protestantism and capitalism existed in Ireland just as elsewhere. (On the Scotch-Irish see C. A. Hanna, The Scotch-Irish, 2 vols., [New York: Putnam, 1902].) [1920]
15. This is not, of course, to deny that the historical-political, external situations had exceedingly important consequences. I shall show later that many Protestant sects were small and hence homogeneous minorities, as were actually all the strict Calvinists outside of Geneva and New England (even where they were in possession of political power). This [external situation] was of fundamental significance for the development of believers’ entire orientation of life in the sects, and this orientation then reacted back upon the participation of the faithful in economic life.
That migrants from all the religions of the earth—from India, Arabia, China, Syria, Phoenicia, Greece, Lombardy—have universally been the social carriers, to other countries, of the commercial education in highly developed areas has nothing to do with our problem. (Brentano, in the essay I shall often cite, Die Anfange des modernen Kapitalismus (Munich: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1916) refers to his own family. But bankers of foreign extraction have existed at all times, and in all countries, as the social carriers of commercial experience and connections. These bankers are not unique to modern capitalism, and were looked upon with ethical mistrust by the Protestants [see below]. The case of the Protestant families from Locarno [Italy], such as the Muralts, Pestalozzi, and others, who migrated to Zurich, was different. They very soon became the social carriers of a specifically modern capitalist [industrial] development.) [1920]
16. Offenbacher, op. cit., p. 68.
17. Weber is here referring to the French Huguenots [sk].
18. Weber refers here to those churches that take the early Christianity of the apostles as their ideal [sk].
19. Unusually acute observations on the characteristic uniqueness of the different religions in Germany and France, and the interweaving of their differences with other cultural elements in the conflict of nationalities in Alsace, are to be found in the excellent study by Werner Wittich, “Deutsche und französische Kultur im Eisass” [German and French Culture in Alsace-Lorraine], Illustrierte ElsĂ€ssische Rundschau (1900; also published separately).
20. St. Francis lived in voluntary poverty and preached a doctrine of brotherly love and optimism [sk].
21. Naturally only then, we wish to make clear, if the possibility of capitalist development in the relevant area was at all present.
22. Weber is here thinking of monks as entrepreneurial, as they often were in the High Middle Ages [sk].
23. On this point see, for instance, Dupin de St. AndrĂ©, “L’ancienne Ă©glise rĂ©formĂ©e de Tours. Les membres de l’église,” Bulletin de la sociĂ©tĂ© de l’histoire du Protestantisme, vol. 4 [1856], p. 10. Here again one could (and this idea will be appealing especially to those persons who evaluate this theme from the perspective of Catholicism) view the desire for emancipation from monastic control (or even control by the church) as the driving motive. But this view is opposed not only by the judgment of contemporaries (including Rabelais), but also, for example, by the qualms of conscience raised in the first national synods of the Huguenots (for example, 1st Synod, C. partie, qu. 10 in J. Aymon, Synodes nationaux de l’Eglise rĂ©formĂ©e de France [1710], p. 10), as to whether a banker might become an elder of the church. Furthermore, and in spite of Calvin’s unambiguous stand, repeated discussions took place in the same synods regarding the permissibility of taking interest. These discussions were occasioned by the questions of extremely conscientious members of the congregations. In part these discussions arose because a high percentage of church members were also participants in business and banking circles—and hence had a direct interest in these questions. These discussions arose, however, at the same time also because it was hoped by these circles that the wish to practice usuraria pravitas [depraved usury]—and to do so without supervision through the confession—could be considered as not centra...

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