The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

by Max Weber

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According to Weber, what is the "spirit of capitalism"?

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German theorist Max Weber explains what he felt the spirit of capitalism meant in his 1905 work "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." For Weber, the spirit of capitalism refers to a particular set of social values and codes of behavior.

The ethic behind capitalism, according to Weber, was consistent and followed logic. It was subject to all the other forces in a capitalist society. Unlike humanist and purely religious philosophies, this ethic ignored personal values of beauty and worth. Instead, it was more focused on the public.

Weber felt that one's work became "an absolute end in itself." With this in mind, profit-making lies at the heart of the spirit of capitalism. Weber writes that this spirit refers to "that attitude which, in the pursuit of a calling strives systematically for profit for its own sake ..." However, it is not all of it. If this were so, avarice and greed would solely define the spirit of capitalism. Instead, Weber takes an almost religious interpretation, stating that work lends a sense of dignity to all who engage in it, no matter how un-glorifying the profession may be.

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