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Capitalism & Protestant Ethics

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  • 15-06-2015 2:27am
    #1
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭


    Is there any merit in the contents of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism towards examining today's world, or should this work be archived as an early, but misguided attempt?


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  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 3,571 ✭✭✭newmug


    Not familiar with that article, but I'd say its widely accepted that by-and-large, protestantism and capitalism go hand-in-hand. Both right wing in nature.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    newmug wrote: »
    Not familiar with that article, but I'd say its widely accepted that by-and-large, protestantism and capitalism go hand-in-hand. Both right wing in nature.
    It's one of several books (1930) authored by Max Weber, which had been later translated into English by sociologist Talcott Parsons.

    This Weberian work contributed to the structural functionalist position held in sociology, and suggested that religion laid part of the foundation for the emergence of capitalism. For example, religious clerics were an educated class of persons that were often skilled in math, and increasing numbers of them became what we call accountants today. Such accounting increased precision, accountability, and prediction in financial affairs, contributing to the emergence of capitalism according to Weber.

    The theme of this work suggested that Protestantism, especially Calvinism and the assumption of predestination, provided more motivation for Protestants than Catholics to succeed in the accumulation of wealth; i.e., if you were successful on Earth, you must be one of the elite predestined. Catholics were more afterlife focused, than in the here and now. It should be noted that this interpretation has been a subject for disagreement and debate.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,942 ✭✭✭topper75


    What does Weber say about the greatest empire the world has ever seen - Catholic Spain of yore can't be said to have come up short in its pursuit of worldly wealth?

    Today, Germany is 'wealthy' but half its heritage is Catholic.

    Reformed christianity is not what granted Britain her vast coalfields nor Sweden her iron ore deposits etc.

    When you start to look around a bit through economic history, it doesn't take long to see Weber's balloon deflate.

    I would go with Black Swan's "archived as an early, but misguided attempt".


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    topper75 wrote: »
    I would go with Black Swan's "archived as an early, but misguided attempt".
    It should also be noted that the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was ethnocentric in that it focused on Western religion and capitalism as sources, failing to adequately address alternative models of capitalism occurring in other parts of the world.

    Although a more recent example, and certainly influenced by W Edwards Deming's quality principles (which at 1st had been largely rejected in America), Japanese Kaizen was not a protestant ethic in the least, rather a combination of early Western quality improvement and Eastern zen, the latter a very Eastern religious/cultural perspective of continuous incremental improvement (applied to manufacturing); which was in turn associated with increasing capitalistic ROI; i.e., over decades Japanese post-WWII manufactured junk was transformed into a worldwide quality standard and associated profits.

    In fairness to Weber, and in contrast to his earlier Protestant Ethic (1904), was his last and larger work Economy and Society (1922), with the march of rationalisation theory that may have some merit today. Where the early Weber may have been seriously flawed, the later Weber may be worth a look today in that it combines both a structuralist perspective with a critical-conflict (e.g., Hegelian dialectic) perspective?


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 963 ✭✭✭Labarbapostiza


    Black Swan wrote: »

    Although a more recent example, and certainly influenced by W Edwards Deming's quality principles (which at 1st had been largely rejected in America), Japanese Kaizen was not a protestant ethic in the least, rather a combination of early Western quality improvement and Eastern zen, the latter a very Eastern religious/cultural perspective of continuous incremental improvement (applied to manufacturing); which was in turn associated with increasing capitalistic ROI; i.e., over decades Japanese post-WWII manufactured junk was transformed into a worldwide quality standard and associated profits.

    When I first heard the story about Deming, I was very surprised. I actually believe it to be an exaggeration if not an outright myth. If you look at the history of Japanese camera manufactures, Nikon, for example. They were producing high quality camera lens before Deming arrived in Japan. This is something incredibly difficult to do, and requires a very precise attention to quality, probably more than any other manufacturing for the time.

    http://jamalyusuf.com/the-history-of-how-japan-came-to-dominate-the-camera-industry/

    Nikon’s lenses were discovered by numerous Western photographers passing through Japan on the way to Korea to shoot photos of the war and all. Contax made 35mm rangefinder cameras, and Nikon copied the mount for their own 35mm rangefinder camera bodies, so the lenses were somewhat interchangeable. Their lenses were so good, and so much cheaper than German glass, that they became somewhat of a popular item.

    The Contax was a German made camera. For quality in manufacturing the Germans were ahead of America.

    Demming's story is unlikely to be true. It clashes with the more correct sounding story, that Japan's early dominance in WWII, was precisely because of their high quality manufacturing.


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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 47,236 CMod ✭✭✭✭Black Swan


    When I first heard the story about Deming, I was very surprised. I actually believe it to be an exaggeration if not an outright myth.
    This is an interesting point that you make. Did Deming contribute in any way to the emergence (or reemergence) of Kaizen immediately following the end of WWII, or was this credit perhaps a result of American biased historical revisionism? It does appear that Deming may have been influential in the adoption of SPC (Statistical Process Control) first in Japan and later in USA, but was Deming's SPC contribution in 1950's Japan under the Marshall Plan an elaboration of the obvious, when zen-like models for continuous improvement had been present for thousands of years in Japan?


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