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Protestant Ethic and Rise of Capitalism

Hegel in his theory of religion advocates that God is the supreme creator and that God the universal spirit has given man wisdom to create recreate and change the world according to his desires. According to Marx man thinks that God is great and this thought is not original to man. It is the thought of the dominant class infected into man's mind. Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, soul of the soulless situation, heart of the heartless environment, opium of the masses. Thus sufficient distance from religion is key to man' s salvation from miseries, sufferings and exploitation. Durkheim in contrast considers that religion means society itself therefore separates from God means expulsion from society unthinkable and impossible for man.

Weber makes an attempt to study religion and its role in modern society .He never feels at home with the observation of any of his predecessors thus makes an attempt to study the structural essence of different world religions- Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Calvinism.

In his theory of Protestant Ethics and Spirit of capitalism Weber intends to advocate that may be the history of capitalism or it is the history of democracy or even it is the history of religion all of them are just like clean sheets of paper in which the human actions necessarily its imprint meaning history is not predetermined. It can be made in any form in any manner with any possible content and change. The concern of sociology is not to explain what history ought to be rather; sociology must address variabilities in the history of capitalism, history of religion, history of democracy and so on. The foundation of sociology is to transform sociology into a descriptive and interpretative discipline abandoning the idea that sociology is a discipline prescriptive in character.

The fundamental concern of Weber stands different from Durkheim on the ground that Durkheim on the ground that Durkheim is sensitive to collective human effort which has given way to the growth of modern society, complex form of division of labor, mass production and regulation of individual behavior through the enforcement of restitive sanctions. Durkheim believes that capitalism otherwise known as modern society is all prepared to manifest itself in the face of the millions. But Karl Marx considers capitalism as evil to humanity.

Weber advocates that it is not sociologically important to conclude whether capitalism is good or bad, human or anti-human rather sociology must have to study the essence of capitalism. It must make an attempt to understand various forms of capitalism present in the history of different societies. It must have to analyze the similarities and differences between various forms of capitalism. It must have to look into the essential preconditions responsible for the growth of the emergent nature of capitalism that Weber defines as legal-rational capitalism. Sociology must have to look into the factors responsible for the growth of legal-rational capitalism in west and search for the presence or absence of these factors in east where capitalism is yet to make its appearance. All these attributes sociologically important to study capitalism sufficiently indicate Weber's commitment to historical method, Interpretative method, Ideal type and Verstehen method.

Weber asserts that the essence of capitalism is an ideological stimulation to a large body of people to accumulate capital at a given point of time in a given situation. The spirit of capitalism is not unique to modern society hence it is difficult to distinguish modern society from pre-modern societies. In all the societies of human history there is necessarily present the drive for mobilization of capital or wealth therefore the history of humanity has witnessed the presence of various forms of capitalism in time and space. They are so divergent that it is possible to study all of them in every possible detail. Thus he looks into the major forms of capitalism constructing an ideal type about them. The most important forms of capitalism includes
Booty capitalism
Periah capitalism
Traditional capitalism
Legal –rational capitalism

While speaking of Booty capitalism he advocates that tribal communities fighting warfare against each other were greatly engaged in mobilizing capital or wealth. There is no reason to conceptualize tribal societies as pre-monetized system where the search for capital is potentially absent. They constitute primitive communism. While speaking of periah capitalism he gives the example of medieval Germany where the Jews were engaged in money lending activities, trade practices and they abstained from mainstream socio-cultural activities. The goal of their lives was to mobilize capital though the Jews looked down at and considered by Germans as slavish in character. In a society there also one find elements of capitalism.

In case of traditional feudal societies the feudal lords were profits seeking. The imposition of taxes on the tenants and demand for high degrees of return from the production made by the tenants and cultural obligation on part of the tenants to offer tributes to their lords during ceremonial occasions. All these early forms of capitalism are different from legal rational capitalism as in this type of capitalism both labor and enterprise conform to the legal rules either to make profit or to determine the value of their wages respectively. Both labor and enterprise are legally bound to relate themselves to the interest and the objective of the enterprise.

In order to examine why legal-rational capitalism developed in societies of west, Weber gets into the fundamental pre-requisite for the growth of legal-rational capitalism. He believes that essential requirement for the growth of any new form of economy or a motivational current that is ignored by materialistic thinking drives political order. Values are as important as substance/infrastructure for the growth of capitalism. He takes interest in the study of the unique values radiated from Calvinism and he makes an attempt to establish correspondence between the values of Protestantism and the demands of capitalism. He also makes an attempt to understand how different other world religions radiate different kinds of values and their respective negotiation with the demands of capitalism. Such an attempt helps him to understand the nexus between economy and religion.

While speaking about protestant ethnics he looks into the important values of Calvinism of which the important indicators include Materialistic asceticism – concept of materialistic asceticism imply that a true protestant is bound to abstain from ceremonial extravagance, materialistic pleasure. He should refrain from sexual enjoyment but he must be committed to his duties. He must have to get involved in discoveries and innovations.

Self-discipline is an important feature of Protestantism. It means one should routinize his regular course of action. One must have to give sufficient time to his vocation. One must have to conform to the laws to regulate his activities no amount of success should give man a sense of fulfillment. The drive for success, glory from the time of his birth until the time of his death should be there. One should be a workaholic to enjoy the work, meanings of his life and self discipline ordinarily demands that right thing should be done at right time because time is money. It should not be wasted and should be used in a very systematic rational and meaningful manner for human glory.

Calling is the most important essence of Protestantism. Protestantism believes that after this life there is no other life therefore life is short. It is pre-destined and man should be reminded of the scarcity of time. A true protestant will be restless. He must have to feel miserable as more he achieves more is yet to be achieved. This orientation keeps reminding man time and again that he must have to get into enterprise, he must have to dedicate himself to work and time is short, life is purposive, responsibility of man is to transform this world into the Paradise of God in which his contribution should be visible.

Predestination as Protestantism strongly believes that the greatness of God .He had the right to either select man or to damn him. One should be satisfied, pleased and obliged to God as he is selected. The purpose behind his selection is predestined which man must understand. The realities surrounding the universe are mystical and God best knows the meanings behind them therefore man should not make attempt to spoil his time and energy by interpreting powers of God.

The values of Protestantism strongly correspond with the demands of capitalism in a well-defined manner. It is an in-worldly religion that advocates that life is short and one must be duty bound to make the best use of time. Capitalism demands that both labor and enterprise should be committed to work. Protestantism advocates that every man selected is a divine child. Thus everybody possesses qualities to achieve miracles of life. People should be judged on the basis of their performance. Protestantism believes in the principle of equality, capitalism evaluates the performance of the individuals. The best performers are given opportunity to go for upward mobility which offers them new status and social recognition. Thus the demands of capitalism are sufficiently endorsed by the values of Protestantism for which capitalism developed in west.

Protestantism advocates that a man should learn to love the fellow beings because all are divine children. One must learn to cooperate with each other. One must respect the rules and laws meant for collective well-being organized activities and direct man to manifest his duties. Capitalism demands division of responsibilities, harmonic work culture interdependency among the people conforming to law and law offers guidelines who has to occupy which position and perform what kind of roles therefore the demands of capitalism is addressed by Protestant values effectively.

This theory of Weber is being tested in various empirical grounds. Ayal and Bellah in their study of growth of capitalism in 19th century Japan found out that Japan's exposure to industry could become possible only through the religious movements. In the 19th century Japan new secular religious values were stimulants to the growth of capitalism.

J.J Rustow finds out that growth of capitalism in contemporary Japan is the outcome of their defeat in the Second World War which gave way to a great national disgrace and compelled all the people to stand together driven by the spirit of nationalism and patriotism which gave way to the growth of capitalism.

Gunnar Myrdal advocate that centuries old colonial rule when gives way to freedom, national pride stimulate people to accept new values and ideology to go for economic development.

Richard Bendix advocates that cross-cultural contacts provide stimulation for economic development and growth of capitalism. A testimony to that is the growth of capitalism in Germany that borrowed ideology from France and expertise from America and technology from Britain.
Lipset says that for the growth of capitalism stimulating ideas and support may come from the political structure, family and kinship, internal organization patterns along with the values of religion. Therefore for the growth of capitalism the bearings of multiple forces must be taken into consideration. Neil J Smelser also supports this argument.

Alexander Greschenkron advocates that during the great October Russian Revolution religion offered no conducive values for economic change though old Christians practicing Protestant values were sufficiently present in Russia. Weberian theory of Protestant ethics and spirit of Capitalism may be critized on empirical grounds but the ethos of this theory was to prove that how the history of the institutions is highly divergent. It offers sociology an alternative methodology useful to study the dynamic character of human life and social history.

Emagzine