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on 27 February 2013
I am not rating Weber's text. Let's just say that it's worth the read if you are interested in this sort of a thing.

However, it seems that this edition has not been proofread at all: I could handle typos but there are too many repeated words and in some instances even repeated half sentences. Hopefully not much is missing! Gives a feel of a poor copy-paste job.
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on 24 October 2013
While the quality and size of print is OK, for research purposes is a no-no. There is no index which makes searching impossible - shame really, but no index really does devalue the books usefulness.
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on 29 March 2010
One must be careful with the words that Weber uses: "Protestant ethic" and "Spirit of Capitalism". This book is also about understanding capitalism.

Let's start from the basics: Capitalism existed long before Protestantism. Capitalism existed long before Weber's days form of Capitalism. Let's call this modern capitalism, as opposed to ancient capitalism. There is a stark distinction between them: modern capitalism is using a moral language. Continuous re-investing of profits, not living luxury lives (or not stopping earning more when one can achieve its original goal to earn a luxury life for themselves) and hard working up until the end of the capitalist's life no matter the age, just for the shake of it, all those are characteristics that describe more a moral duty to do so, rather than plain profit-taking activity.

Transformation of ancient capitalism to modern capitalism occurred only through the Calvinist approach of Protestantism. It could not have occurred otherwise..

How was this done?

Let's do another step back. Weber's approach to religion was unprecedented, in his time. He took the antipodal stance from Karl Marx on this. Marx, as a reductionist considered religion to be "nothing more than economics". Weber suggested quite the opposite: religion is an independent variable that could well affect all others, even in terms of constructing a full scale economic theory and its application into the real world.

With the Reformation, Protestant Christians rejected the idea that they should necessarily belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved. Any profession could well be equally dignified, as priesthood or monkhood. The door has opened that the individual relation with God could well be a way of saving oneself. With the notion of "predestination" (that came from Calvinism), people were looking for signs for God's glory. Acquired wealth could serve this purpose, but not in itself. The way of spending one's earning was vital. Not on luxury goods, nor on expensive life-style, nor on stopping working in order to live on so far earnings.

The perfect match was done. The Protestant (Calvinist) Ethic provided Capitalism with the appropriate spirit to dominate the world.

The above is my understanding of Weber's thesis, in a nutshell.

Weber looked a lot into statistics and correlation between Protestant dominated societies and business activities etc. He is quite convincing of his analysis.
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on 11 September 2013
I had the Kindle version of this book and I loved it because of all the great commentaries. This version does not have any. Disapointing. A great book, however, but I'd suggest to get a different version - on that includes commentaries.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 November 2015
This review is based on the German text.
Max Weber's main thesis is that Protestant religious ideas (its ethic) exert a certain influence on the spirit of capitalism.
This relationship can be seen in the rationalization of economic production processes and its outcome: profit.

His thesis is an attack on Marx's theory that ideas or beliefs are only a superstructure of the real living conditions, namely the relationship between the owners of the means of production (capitalists) and the proletarians who are forced to sell their labor force. Weber tried by this book to prove that (religious) ideas also had some influence on human socio-economic conditions and that Marx's theory is not fully or always valid.

One of the crucial paragraphs in Weber’s book is the following: ‘Nur ein Erwählter ist fähig, Gottes Ruhm durch wirklich gute Werke zu mehren. Und indem er sich dessen bewuszt ist, dasz sein Wandel auf einer in ihm lebenden Kraft zur Mehrung des Ruhmes Gottes ruht, nicht also nur gottgewollt, sondern vor allem gottgewirkt ist, erlangt er jenes höchste Gut, nach dem diese Religiosität strebte: die Gnadengewiβheit. So absolut ungeeignet also gute Werke sind, als Mittel zur Erlangung der Seligkeit zu dienen, so unentbehrlich sind sie als Zeichen der Erwählung.’ (Only a chosen one is able to increase the glory of God by truly good works. And as he is conscious of this, that his way of life is based on a force inside him which increases God’s glory, not only willed by God, but mainly provoked by God, he attains the highest good for which his religiosity is striving for: the certainty of mercy. So as good works are totally useless means for obtaining salvation, they are indispensable as a sign of election.’
In other words, this is nothing less than predestination. But, predestination is a part of only Calvinist belief, not of other Protestant religions. Capitalism didn’t flourish in Calvinist, but in Protestant countries.

There is another aspect (a real one, not in the head) of the phenomenon of Protestantism.
During a long time about 75% of all outstanding monetary funds in Western Europe were in the hands of the Catholic Church, through the terrorism of the mendicant orders and the mandatory buying of indulgences by all Catholics (see Jean Delumeau). What has the Church done with this money? It built many Versailles (churches): a kind of Western Potlatch.
The breakthrough came with Protestantism on the continent and with Henry VIII in England (G.M. Trevelyan). In the now heathen (non-Catholic) countries the entrepreneur could keep his funds and invest them in (new) businesses.
One example: when Antwerp fell in the hands of the Catholic Spanish king in the 16th century, all merchants fled to Amsterdam and created there a golden capitalist age (for I. Wallerstein, the beginning of pure capitalism).
As F. Braudel said, ‘it’s not religion, but the economy’, in other words money and investments.
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on 5 March 2015
One of the most inspiring books you'll ever read.
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on 16 September 2013
Very well printed, good presentation and good value for money even it this seems too materialistic for the subject. But to someone who is even vaguelly interested in the subject it is excellent.
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As part of my enquiry into the forces that the Reformation unleased, I decided to at last read this classic.

Alas, it was disappointing in that Weber makes the assertion - that reformation-spawned ideologies were the foundation of the capitalist revolution - and then offers little historical explanation as proof of his thesis. Instead, what he does is to painstakingly describe the ideologies in question, to show that they are compatible conceptually with his definition of capitalism (the rise of an urban bourgeoisie that created wealth by investing in industry as a major new economic actor, eventaully leading to the eclipse of the old land-based aristocracy). As Hannah Ardnt said, so long as you are far enough from reality, you can make almost any ideas appear compatible. As such, I was unconvinced that a) the feeling of being among the elect made people work harder to prove it by material success and b) that a heightened sense of individuality that arose with separation from the papist ideologies augmented this pursuit of self-development via the massing of personal capital. While the protestant ideologies may conform vaguely to these notions, that does not in the slightest prove a direct causal connection. Indeed, one might argue that it was the repression by the Inquisition - against the bourgoise's challenge to traditional aristocrats - that may have delayed the development of capitalism in Catholic countries for a few centuries. (That capitalism did develop in many Catholic countries also undermines the book's prinicpal thesis.)

This essay is interesting as a pioneering attempt at sociological determinism from a rather existentialist perspective, but reading the whole thing was a bit much for me. Weber was a great and innovative thinker, however out of date his modes of reasoning have become - they are strictly qualitative. Not recommended except asof historical interest.
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on 2 December 2014
Exactly what I was looking for.
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on 28 September 2014
As described
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