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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: and Other Writings (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – April 30, 2002


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About the Author

Max Weber (1864-1920), German sociologist, one of the founders of modern sociology. He emphasised cultural and political factors as key influences on economic development and individual behaviour. Weber argued for a scientific and value-free approach to research, yet highlighted the importance of meaning and consciousness in understanding social action. His ideas continue to stimulate thought on social stratification, power, organisations, law, and religion. Peter Baehr teaches in the department of politics and sociology at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140439218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140439212
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Enrique Lerdau on July 19, 2005
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This classic is more referred to than read by economists in Anglo-Saxon countries where Weber is considered mainly a sociologist. When I went to Graduate School (Wisconsin) it was not even mentioned. A pity, because it is a milestone in the search for explanations of historical events, in this case the extraordinary spread of capitalism in Protestant countries. One

may not buy Weber's thesis in part or in toto, but it is so carefully argued that dissent has to be very nuanced and scholarly to be persuasive. (An example of such creative dissent is Tawney's "Religion and the Rise of Capitalism").

This Edition contains a fairly good translation; its main weakness is the arrangement of notes (Editor's and Weber's) at the end of each chapter. Hard to find because tops of pages don't contain chapter titles. And the notes are an important part of the whole.

The book also contains several of Weber's rebuttals to some citicisms that he received. Since these critiques are not reprinted here, the rebuttals are not fully self-explanatory. Moreover, this section is not inspiring for another reason: the tone of academic petulance diminishes the image of a great scholar.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christian Wetzel on March 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Weber's "Protestant Ethic" has here been published along with the author's responses to various reviews; and this is a good idea as it may be helpful in dispelling the misconceptions that arose from the "Weber thesis" and are still rampant. Weber primarily had to deal with interpretations of his work that took him to say that modern capitalism had its cause in the attitudes and working habits of certain minority groups, to wit the "Protestants" or "Puritans" of the early modern era. So it was Weber's primary aim in his "counter-reviews" to point out that he had made no such claim at all; in fact, he assumed that modern capitalism had its origin in various social, political und scientific developments of the West completely independent of Protestantism. In particular, he tried to refute two common prejudices: that modern capitalism arose from greed and avarice, or alternatively, from industriousness. The Chinese, as far as we can tell, throughout history had been as industrious and hard-working as any people in the West, but failed to develop modern capitalism.

What Weber's thesis was all about was a change of outlook of certain groups of people at the beginning of the modern era. He noted, that-largely as a result of religious beliefs and attitudes-some people rejected the age-old and still prevalent ideal of the "universal man" of sound erudition and refined taste, the "gentleman" ideal of the Renaissance, in favor of a completely different life goal, that of the "professional man". This reduction of all human interests to success in one's vocation, has-far from being the "cause" of modern capitalism-simply proved to be the optimal adaptation to the ecological niche created by it.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By roji on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Those considering buying the Kindle edition, just be aware most Greek phrases are rubbish, and that links only work for the editor/translator notes, and not for Weber's own notes - so it is extremely tedious to consult the author's extensive and important comments.

This doesn't detract from the greatness of this text, and specifically the introduction and the included debates about The Protestant Ethic are a tremendous value. I just wish eBook quality was better.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By W. Sid Vogel on August 29, 2012
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I can not believe I waited until I was 59 years old to read this book in its entirity. This is a clear, concise analysis of the cultural factors that created the "capitalist spirit" in general and in America specifically. Weber clearly analyses the belief systems of Protestantism that created the "Protestant Ethic" that compelled the protestant Americans to work hard, deligently attempting to earn capital and then to use that capital to further God's work here on earth. That wealth was not to be accumulated for personal consumption, but for further investment. Further investment meant more jobs, and a better life for others. In addition, profit was seen a God's blessing and was to be used by the individual to provide charity to those who were destitute.

It is amazing how this culture is evident in our lives today, even among those who are no longer Christians. Look at Buffet, he does not live ostentatiously, he creates and accumulates capital, he is still working at his advanced age, he works constantly, and he has given away his profits to charity. This is an almost perfect example of the protestant ethic. Look at Ted Turner's work and charity. Poor old Ted does not understand the forces of the culture that motivate him, but he is being carried along by the current that has been handed down to us by our forefathers. The same can be said for the Gates and their foundation, working to provide charity to the people of the earth. The same can be said for the Mellons, Carnieges, and others of thier ilk. Work hard, it is a calling, it is important to create wealth, it is good to create wealth, and then provide charity with that wealth. That is the ethic, and Weber tells us how it happened, and why it happened exclusively in America.
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