?How did the Calvinists beliefs relating to worldly asceticism and predestination, encourage the development of Western capitalism, in Webers view.?
In this essay, I am first going to briefly look at Webers idea
and how it differed form the view Marx put forward on the development of Western capitalism. I am then going to look at the way Weber saw ?occidental? capitalism differing from ?other? types of capitalism. After this I will touch upon what Weber described as the 'spirit of capitalism?. I will then proceed to explain what effect predestination and worldly- asceticism had an on a Protestant and his calling, and how this therefore encouraged the development of Western capitalism; in Webers view. After this I will look at the evidence Weber used to back up his idea, as well as the criticisms made against his work. I will also assess the methodological method used by Weber in his analysis; and finally, I will finish with a conclusion to sum up this essay.
Marx in his study of Western capitalism; saw it developing from a struggle between two forces, mainly feudalism and early capitalism(1). However, having studied Marx's ideas(2), Weber put forward a different analysis to describe the development of Western capitalism. Weber instead put forward an idea which did not seek to replace Marx's idea as a spiritual alternative(ibid), but was to give a different angle of how capitalism may have developed in the West. This idea was based on a coincidence which Weber believed exhisted between the owners of capital and Protestantism, as explained below;
?Business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labour, and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, are overwhelmingly Protestant.?(ibid)
Therefore Weber set out an investigation to find why most business men were Protestant, and thus possessed a large amount of capital, which Weber describes as the ?elective affinity? (3); as shown in his following statement;
?We are dealing with the connection of modern economic life(Occidental capitalism) with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestants.?(ibid)
It is when Weber did his research that he came to the following conclusion; that the way of life for Protestants(specifically the followers of Calvinism), probably encouraged the development of Western Capitalism. Weber defined capitalism as being; 'the pursuit of profit and forever renewed profit.?(ibid) Weber saw this form of capitalistic enterprise as existing in many parts of the world, however Weber argued that the west(or the occident) had its own peculiar form of capitalism, which was in some respects different to the ?other? forms of capitalism.
Weber believed capitalism had different forms(ibid); firstly, capitalism could be of an adventurous nature, with pirates, speculators, and war funders taking individual opportunistic actions to make a profit.(ibid) Secondly, Weber describes a similar type of capitalism which exhisted in India, China, Babylon, and Egypt. Weber saw this to encourage rational calculation to some extent, however as before a large emphasis was placed on the individual to make a profit. Only after a while did the merchants undertaking such capitalist enterprises decide to continue ongoing operations and establish some sort of cohesion to their business's.(ibid)
Thirdly, Weber identified occidental capitalism; which he believed first developed in western Europe and North America. Weber saw this being encouraged by the cultural and social thought of the time, which was based around the idea of ?rationalism?. This is described through examples of the type of science(method of investigation), art, architecture, jurisprudence, and bureaucratic government the West in general had(ibid). Therefore western capitalism was just another link to this chain.
Weber found ?Occidental? capitalism to be different from the ?other? forms in many respects, as I am now going to show. Firstly there was a lack of free labour in the ?others? system. Secondly, household work and business work were not separated, as in the west. Personnel property was kept apart from corporate property, rational book-keeping techniques were used, and a rational legal and administrative system exhisted, which Weber believed played a role to limit speculative and opportunistic capitalism. Finally Weber also acknowledged the role of technical advancement in playing its part to encourage the development of Occidental capitalism.(ibid)
However in spite of these factors, Weber believed that Protestant beliefs were still the main driving force behind the development of Western capitalism. For Weber these beliefs also led to a particular ?geist?(ibid.), which he believed was identified in the writings of Benjamin Franklin;
(a) ?Remember that time is money.?
(b) ?Remember that credit is money.? (ibid)
This 'spirit? of capitalism was seen as an ideology which many people in the west now included in there character. Weber in his analysis, identified two main characteristics in the Protestants belief, which he believed were important in encouraging the development of Western capitalism. These were the beliefs of predestination(which Weber saw as being the Calvinists ?most characteristic dogma?ibid) and worldly asceticism, which are described to encompass the ?Protestant ethic?, and there effect on the Calvinists calling(ibid). In looking at predestination, Weber believed that a concept such as this must have psychologically produced anxiety and panic in the Calvinist. This was since the Calvinist believed that as soon as he was born, God had already mapped out his life, in this world and the hereafter, which he could do nothing about. Weber used the following exerts from Calvin's ideas to prove this;
?Some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life, and others ordained to everlasting death.?(ibid)
?Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God before the foundation had laid.?(ibid)
?All those who God had predestined unto life.?(ibid)
Weber saw such beliefs as creating a psychological(ibid) state of mind and ?inner loneliness?, which would affect the Calvinists actions. The uncertainty(ibid) of the Calvinists fate, must have led them to look for signs to what there future was going to entail. For Weber these signs were to be found in ones life: therefore if a Calvinist found himself to be successful in worldly terms, then surely this was a sign that Gods favour was upon you. Whereas if you lapsed in to sinful behaviour then this must be a sign that the Calvinist was damned. In short Weber found the Calvinists had an enormous pressure to lead a disciplined, righteous, and successful life, where success could be seen in terms of money.(ibid)
In looking at the idea of worldly asceticism; Weber found this to create a rigid way of life for the Calvinist(ibid), who therefore worked very hard in his ?calling? and was not able to spend any of his wealth on anything which led to worldly pleasure; such as clothes, theatre, houses being done well, and anything material which did not have a use. Time wasting, sexual pleasures, gossiping were all frowned upon; sport and re-creation were accepted but only in the gaining of fitness and health;
?This worldly asceticism, as we recapitulate up to this point, acted powerfully against the spontaneous enjoyment of possessions; it restricted consumption especially of luxuries.?(ibid)
?Asceticism was the power ?which ever seeks the good but ever creates the evil? what was evil in its sense was possession and its temptation.?(ibid)
Instead the wealth was to be saved, and only spent in the ?Glory of God?(bid); for Weber this then led the Calvinists to make profits, which were not spent on many things, but had to be re-invested back in to the business. Weber described this in his following writing;
?When the limitations of consumption is combined with this release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable result is obvious; accumulation of capital through an ascetic compulsion to save. The restraints which were imposed on the compulsion of wealth naturally served to increase it, by making possible the productive investment of capital.?(ibid)
Protestants in general were seen to prohibit any type of enjoyment or recreation which distracted the believer from the remembrance of God. For the believer such an ascetic lifestyle was to provide comfort that he was not committing sin, and hence not going to hell. Weber found such ideas on worldly asceticism and predestination, and there effect on the Calvinists calling, played a vital role in developing western capitalism.(ibid)
I am now going to look at ...