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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Paperback – September 9, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the most renowned and controversial works of modern social science."
-Anthony Giddens
"Max Weber is the one undisputed canonical figure in contemporary sociology."
-Times Higher Education Supplement
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: BN Publishing (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982055609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982055601
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This refers to the cheap-o, publisher-less edition with the piles of cash on the front cover and the street-art back cover.

This is an edition that can only exist in the era of mass book-buying sight unseen over the internet. You would never, ever buy this book if you looked at it at a store. Reading it is infuriating. The text looks like it was cut-and-pasted from a website -- indeed, certain phrases (eg, the title "Pilgrim's Progress") are underlined and in slightly lighter font, as though they were originally hyperlinks. The text is riddled with typos and moments where you're not certain whether or not a line or a passage was unintentionally dropped out; the footnoting seriously disrupts the line-spacing, in a way that makes the experience of reading incredibly unpleasant.

If you want to read this text online for free, go ahead and do it. But if you want to buy a book that you can keep, refer to, underline, etc. when away from your electronic devices, buy the penguin edition (new translation) or one of the other reprints of the Parson translations.

This edition is an insult to anyone who takes books seriously.
2 Comments 29 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This book is the founder of the prolific field of eocnomic sociology. It introduces the concept that culture (in the form of the protestant ethic) is better adapted to fit capitalism. Therefore, capitalist growth was found more frequently in protestant societies than in others.
Since Webber, there has been much study of this topic, with some of the main names being Lawrence Harrison (focusing on the culture of underdevelopment) and Francis Fukuyama (focusing on how trusting societies benefit economically). Both and others push the frontiers initially established by Webber.
Though controversial especially today in the period of political correctness, Webber presents a strong mainly anecdotal case (given the absense of many statistical tools at the time) of why protestant societies succeed in capitalism; his main argument (though there are many other important ones) is that it is socially acceptable in protestant societies to make a profit, whereas it may be considered immoral in other societies, such as catholic ones.
This is a good theoretical book with a few good anecdotes. It is for someone interested in the history of sociology, especially as it pertains to economics. If you are just looking for a link between culture or religion and economics, look at Larry Harrison.
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Format: Paperback
This book is legendary. Max Weber arguably was the first social scientists who devoted his life's work to cross-cultural studies. His pioneering study of "The protestant ethic..." combines a broad, almost universal, vision of human desires and ideas with painstaking details of how certain religious movements transformed the economic basis of feudal Europe, and later the United States, into an economy of competition and free enterprise. The drive in early capitalism, Weber shows, was an inherent
religious belief in money as a means of eternal salvation. Trough accumulating more wealth, capitalists were trying to prove for themselves that they were worthy of God's grace and hence were secured an afterlife in Paradise. However, spending money was not an option for these capitalists. It was considered a sin to use capital gains to satisfy carnal and worldly desires ( compare with Enron and Worldcom executives). Wealth was in many ways protected by a fear of God.
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Format: Paperback
Rather than a general theory or explanation of either economics or religion, Weber attempts to draw a specific link between what he sees as the conjunction of the work ethic of Protestant (mainly Calvinist) spiritual teachings, and the success of Western European Capitalism.
Weber is an astute analyst, in many ways. He rightly notes that often the 'sine qua non' of Capitalism is thought of as "greed". Arguing against this notion, Weber points out that all societies have had greedy people within their particular economic system-greed is thus a factor irrespective of economic systems. Replacing this, Weber proposes that the "spirit" of Capitalism be thought of as a particular moral attitude towards work and idleness-an attitude that holds that constant and diligent work for its own sake is a moral imperative. In the face of what Weber calls "the radical elimination of magic from the world" this work ethic was the existential option left for people in terms of atonement and personal compensation for inadequacies. I believe that these two insights are right on target.
If there is a weakness involved in his characterization of this Protestant "Ethic," it lies in the fact that Weber attempts to draw a strict dichotomy in the origins of this ethic. He states forcefully that this ethic does not come out of any Enlightenment thought. The problem with trying to separate this ethic from the Enlightenment, is that this ethic which posits diligent work for its own sake is clearly found in the ethics of Immanuel Kant, who classified this kind of work and labor as a "duty" (ethical rule) that the self has to itself. In other words, how much of this is the legacy of the Reformation and how much of this is the legacy of the Enlightenment?
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