What would Max Weber say about the relation between religion and capitalism in our society today?
I am having trouble applying his thesis The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism to society of today compared to the 1800s.
I don't know if this will be helpful since I don't know what exactly your essay topic is, but I think that Weber would say that his analysis still holds true today.
Weber did not say that religion was still the actual driving force behind capitalism in his day. Instead, he said that previous religious fervor had sort of shaped society. By his day, he said, people had the ideas (work for work's sake) without really connecting it to religion.
I think he would say that the capitalist ethic has spread now in a way that no longer has so much to do with religion. He would point out that it has spread, for example, to Japan and even to China.
However, he might argue that a lack of Protestant history is what holds back places like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.
Max Weber (1864 – 1920) was a German economist and sociologist.
He believed some religions support capitalism, while other religions such as Hinduism don't. He used the term 'Protestant work ethic' to describe a dedication to simplicity and hard work that the Protestants promoted among people. It also opposed spending money on oneself or religious icons. Thus while hard work led to success and greater wealth the people were not supposed to spend it. This encouraged investment, which led to even more commercial success. In this way, modern capitalism actually grew from religious seeking of wealth as a symbol of work.
Weber described this these ideas and habits that support the rational pursuit of economic gain as the spirit of capitalism. Weber believed that without the restraints of religion, greed and laziness promoted the tendency of people to try earning maximum amount of money for the minimum effort.
In his work "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", Weber argued that the variation in the levels of economic success in Europe was due to the adoption of cultural values, by some states, that were conducive to economic growth. He saw Protestantism as the cultural or spiritual driving force behind capitalist growth in northern Europe since the religion itself often emphasised on good moral values such as, asceticism, frugality and hard work. Protestant states were thus able to accumulate sufficient capital and re-invest their wealth into profitable investments - the accumulation of capital generated from economically productive activities allowed them to achieve capitalism unknowingly. Catholics, on the other hand, were often less disciplined and hard-working and were more prone to hedonism. They saw work as a means to an end which would allow them to pursue worldly pleasures and material comforts. As a result, they accumulated less savings from their work and generated less robust growth rates.