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Weber’s “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism” Essay

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Updated: Apr 25th, 2021

“The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism” book was written by Max Weber in 1905. The book presents numerous theories and concepts about economic sociology as explained by several theorists. Much of the book focuses on the concept of capitalism as witnessed in northern Europe and the United States of America due to the influence of the Protestants. According to the author, people were not used to working for themselves because they did not know much about entrepreneurship. However, Protestants encouraged people to acquire their own property by creating income-generating projects and investing in personal development. Weber argues that the value system introduced by the Protestants played a crucial role in the emergence of contemporary capitalism. However, at the time when this book was written, Weber believed that the protestant’s work ethic had already been diluted from people’s way of life. Weber was keen to note that both religion and capitalism influenced each other’s development, albeit at different times.

In his account, Weber explains the way religious affiliation was a highly regarded element in American society several decades ago. Businesspersons and politicians were considered influential people who had the ability to convince people about religion. This made it hard for people who were not members of any recognized religion to be successful. At the time, religion was considered the main benchmark for determining the level of success one was likely to have. People often found it hard to believe a business person who was not baptized or affiliated with any religion.

The argument developed in the book about religion presents a unique aspect of money that most people never thought existed. In most societies, having a lot of money, and being wealthy are positions that are highly influenced by an individual’s business acumen and the ability to control their growth through good social relations. However, the account given by Weber denotes a very different and unique way of ensuring that one gets rich. In the United States of America, belonging to a known religious group was seen as an avenue for prosperity and wealth creation. Arguably, any person that tried running a business without being religious often experienced a hard time because people did not have faith in anyone who did not believe in important things such as God. At the time, money was considered second to religion.

Business people understood the importance of belonging to a known religious group and admitting to believing in its teachings in front of people. In addition, business people had a working culture that allowed baptized individuals to access an unlimited amount of credit. This culture was created from an argument that a religious person could not default paying for goods given to them on credit. People had attached money to religion, in that only the rich people who showed their religious affiliation openly had the full trust and support of the community. The culture had become deeply rooted in the community to the extent of people using their religious baptism certificates to develop business relations with fellow sect members. People believed that no one would allow any form of business relations with a nonbeliever. Religion had convinced them that money and wealth achieved by individuals was the collective effort of all sect members who offered their support and prayers.

The arguments about money, spirituality, and capitalism made in the article have numerous political, as well as moral implications for the readers. First, the argument on capitalism helps the reader in understanding the importance of democracy and equal opportunities for everyone. A strong, successful, and reliable political system is built with an orientation towards promoting democracy. In addition, the reader understands that it is politically wrong to question someone about their spirituality or even force them to belong to a religious group. Religion should not be used as the determining factor for people to receive certain benefits that they should enjoy unconditionally. Second, the argument on spirituality teaches the reader a lot of things with regard to social acceptance, discrimination, and building an inclusive culture that favors every community member. People considered someone to be of good moral standards if they belonged to a specific religion and got their baptism certificate. Such beliefs play a crucial role in building a morally upright society because people will always focus on doing the right things and avoiding those that can compromise social relations. An individual’s morals were often determined by whether they had been baptized. This is an example of a societal benchmark that can help build a moral society.

It is important to note the way Weber differentiates a sect from mainstream religious organizations depending on the way the value they place on one being baptized. This also creates a moral implication because someone should be given the freedom to belong to a religious organization of their choice. The argument about money teaches the reader that there are other important things in life, such as religion and having good social relations that money cannot guarantee. Although money plays a crucial role in people’s lives, it is important to ensure that all social norms and ethical code of conduct are adhered to by everyone. Most political systems across the world are headed by individuals with capitalistic ideologies that exploit and suppress people in order to become wealthy. However, wealth and money do not count for anything if someone does not believe in important things such as religion. People ought to work hard and accumulate wealth through morally acceptable ways.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Weber's "The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism"." April 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/webers-the-protestant-sects-and-the-spirit-of-capitalism/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Weber's "The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism"'. 25 April.

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