Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Sociology and Philosophy

How did Max Weber connect Protestantism to capitalism?

Weber observed that capitalism required investment, which itself required an excess of money over what was needed for existence. He believed that such saving was a form of asceticism encouraged in Protestant churches that valorized work and devalued enjoyment of the results of work. Weber noted that other religions dominated in societies that were not capitalistic.

Weber called the mental process that made capitalism possible “rationalization,” and he analyzed its presence in efficient, rule-based Western government, as well as economics. He thought that liberal political systems could be an advantage to nations—Germany, in particular—in their international struggles. But he also believed that the accompanying scientific world-view, which downplayed custom, led to a “disenchantment of the world.”

Weber thought that a possible course of correction to the rationalization of bureaucracies was mass democracy, which would result in charismatic leaders.


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