Evaluation Of The Weber Thesis

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In their article, "In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism: Weber's Misinterpre tation of Franklin," Tony Dickson and Hugh Mc Lachlan disagree with Weber that Franklin was talking about an ethic in the selection quoted above.

"Far from demonstrating a commitment to the 'spirit of capitalism,' and the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself and moral duty, Franklin's writings are in fact evidence against the existence of such a spirit." Dickson and Mc Lachlan point out that the title of the work from which Weber quoted is "Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich." They assert, "This suggests that what Franklin is offering is prudential advice, rather than insisting on a moral imperative." The gist of Dickson's and Mc Lachlan's argument is that Weber misinterpreted Franklin's writings as moral ends when they were simply virtues to be practiced because of the benefits they will bring to those who practice them.

He that spend a groat a day, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds.

He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.

Most of the other criticisms of Weber rest on his assertion that modern capitalism could not have flourished in Europe without an ethic or spirit which had its roots in ascetic Protestantism. Robertson, a historian at the University of Cape Town, asserted in "A Criticism of Max Weber and His School" that the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches stressed the same precepts in the 16th and 17th centuries. and also in the second place from natural causes, as a result of which it happens that there are different aptitudes for different occupations amongst different men." Robertson continues in support of his thesis: "The Jansenists . In France the Church went out of its way to welcome the honest bourgeois on the ground that he was the only type of man who followed God's commands and lived in a 'calling'." Amintore Fanfani, an economic historian in Rome, shared Robertson criticism of Weber but from a different aspect.

These criticisms themselves fall into two major categories: (1) that capitalism was a growing force before the Reformation and that it would have thrived as well under Catholicism as under Protestantism and (2) that the driving force behind capitalism was not ascetism but rationality. He states that Weber's assertion that the concept of the "calling" was novel to Luther and Protestantism was not established in Weber's writings. division of men in different occupations occurs in the first place through divine providence, which distributes the condition of men in such a way . In his article "Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism," Fanfani disagrees with Weber concerning the role that Protestant ism played in the development of a capitalist spirit in Europe. that Europe was acquainted with capitalism before the Protestant revolt.During the long 16th century, this spirit became embodied in European society and provided the impetus for capitalism to emerge as the dominant economic system in the world.For Weber, capitalism was more than simply an accumulation of wealth. In fact, Weber insisted that capitalism was the triumph of rationality over tradition.They deny that Franklin was preaching a Protestant work ethic and assert that all Franklin was saying was that if a person is interested in being successful in life and commerce, here are some virtues to follow.Dickson and Mc Lachlan conclude with a clear statement of their criticism of Weber's hypothesis: It seems clear to us that Weber misinterprets Franklin and that the latter was not imbued with the ethos which Weber attributes to him.Once we have ruled out that Protestantism could have produced a phenomenon that already existed, it still remains for us to enquire whether capitalism was encouraged or opposed by Protestantism. He concludes his article by stating, "The creation of a new mentality in the economic field cannot therefore be considered as the work of Protestantism, or rather of any one religion, but it is a manifestation of that general revolution of thought that characterizes the period of the Renaissance and the Reformation, by which in art, philosophy, morals, and economy, the individual emancipates . Mac Kinnon, bases his disagreements with Weber on the idea that Weber misinterpreted what the Calvinists were saying about the concept of the calling and good works.Fanfani goes on to argue that it was not the Protestant Ethic which encouraged the growth of capitalism but the fact that many Protestants were forced to leave Catholic countries to escape persecution which "fosters in the emigrants an internationalism that is no small element in capitalist mentality." In fact, he says that many early Protestant leaders opposed capitalism, including Luther and Calvin: "Luther's conservatism in economic matters, to which his patriarchal ideas on trade and his decided aversion to interest bear witness. He states early on in his article, There are two fundamental theological flaws in Weber's line of reasoning, flaws that mean that Calvinism did not give a divine stamp of approval to earthly toil: (1) There is no crisis of proof in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the dogmatic culmination of seventeenth-century Calvinism upon which Weber so heavily relies, and (2) in Christianity generally and Calvinism in particular, works have nothing to do with mundane activities.He that idly uses five shillings worth of time, loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea.He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantages that might be made by turning it in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount of a considerable amount of money.Explicit in his view of capitalism were a disciplined labor force and the regularized investment of capital.Weber asserted that this combination took place only in Europe and most strongly in Protestant nations, such as England, Holland, and Germany, where there were influential groups of ascetic Protestant sects.


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