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Max Weber and World Religion

Durkheim based his arguments on a very small range of examples even though he claimed that his ideas apply to religion in general.Max Weber by contrast embarked on a massive study of religions world wide.

Weber made detailed studies of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and ancient Judaism and in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism wrote extensively about the impact of Christianity on the history of the west. Weber concentrated on a connection between religion and social change something to which Durkheim gave little attention. Unlike Marx Weber argues that religion is not necessarily a conservative force on the contrary religiously inspired movements have produced dramatic social transformation. Protestantism particularly Puritanism was the source of capitalist outlook found in the modern west.

The early entrepreneurs were mostly Calvinists. Their drive to succeed which helped initiate western economic development was originally prompted by a desire to serve God. Material success was for them a sign of divine favour. Analyzing the eastern religions Weber concludes that they provided inseparable barriers to the development of industrial capitalism of the kind that took place in the west. For example Hinduism is what Weber calls an 'other-worldly' religion that is its highest value stress escape from the toils of the material world to a higher plane of spiritual existence.