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Weber’s ideal type of the spirit of capitalism Essay

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

Max Weber’s ideal type concept relies on the generalized concept of rational social action; however, when applied to research problems, it becomes a historical totality concept. In developing this concept, Weber argued that, no scientific system could reproduce all concrete reality and no conceptual apparatus could exhaust the transfinite diversity of a given condition.

This ideal type, serves as the apparatus that infers differences and similarities in given cases. “An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those one-sidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified analytical construct” (Cahnman 268).

Taken from this point of view, capitalism, according to Weber’s concept, is developed historically because of a religious movement, Protestantism, specifically Calvinism. Calvinism holds that, God decreed eternally the salvation of some and the damnation of others, not in view of the good or evil deeds they would do, but simply ‘because he willed it’ (Weber, Baehr & Wells 69).

Due to these beliefs, the Calvinists became anxious about issues pertaining to their salvation; something that made them push for economic success as a way of having assurance in their beliefs that, prosperity is a sign of God’s favour to his elect. At the same time, the Calvinist did not spend his money on self-indulgence, so had nothing else to do with it but plough it back into the business.

On the other side, employees of Calvinists were just like their employers and to them, jobs were part of their ‘calling’; therefore, this called for careful execution of ones duties due to religion attached to it. as long as one got reward from his or her work, “Hence the ‘Protestant ethic’ – the famous ‘work ethic’ -, the drive for economic success, the will to work hard, the habit of not spending on frivolous self-indulgence.

All this, originating in theology, provided a ‘spirit’ for capitalism, the set of motivations and attitudes that led to ‘rational investment’ of profits continually ploughed back, and to the modern world” (Weber, Baehr & Wells 70).

This Weber’s form of capitalism is the one prevalent in the United States America today. The traits in Weber’s concept are pronounced in America today. People in America today are working hard day in day out and they spend very little on frivolous self-indulgence. Interestingly, the people who spend a lot of money in self-indulgence are moderate earners.

However, looking closely to people who run the economy of this country, they are not self-indulgent. They are only concerned about working hard, accumulating more wealth, and they plough back what they earn into business and this is their ‘calling’.

These traits are dominating even the minds of young entrepreneurs who will do anything to see that they succeed. The notion is that, man has to eat from his sweat.

Through hard work, anyone can become somebody in society and attain his or her dream. This reminisces well with the most elusive American dream. There is rationalization of production to maximize productivity and efficiency. America is the largest Christian continent in the world and people believe that work is duty; a religious duty, and people will strive to gain wealth no matter the cost.

“Moneymaking – provided it is done legally – is, within the modern economic order, the result and the expression of diligence in one’s calling…” (Weber, Baehr & Wells 108). This stand describes the form of capitalism in the United States of America today. People are primitively accumulating wealth and the best thing they can do with it is to feast their eyes on it, the ideal spirit of capitalism that Weber saw many years ago.

Works Cited

Cahnman, Werner. “Ideal Type Theory: Max Weber’s Concept and Some of Its

Derivations.” New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1965.

Weber, Max, Baehr, Peter, & Wells, Gordon. “The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” Of

Capitalism and Other Writings.” New York: Penguin Putman Inc., 2002.

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