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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2011
The main thesis of Max Weber's book is the definite link between the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: `through which fruits can the Reformed see without doubt that he has the right faith: when his Christian life increases God's glory. Only a chosen one has really the Fidex efficax; only he is capable of being reborn and from this sanctification can he during his whole life increase God's glory with good works. So, good works are in no way means of obtaining salvation, but only a sign that one has been elected.' (Adaptation of the German text. LR)
The relationship between `God's glory' and `good works', is expressed by a rationalization of man's economic life (work).
This thesis is, in fact, a response to Marx's theory, which states that ideas, beliefs, ideologies are part only of the superstructure. The real foundations are the property and production relations between the classes, with on the one hand, the owners of the means of production (the capitalists) and on the other hand, the owners of the labor force, which they are forced to sell to the capitalists (the proletarians).
By demonstrating that religious 'ideas' also influence the socio-economic behavior of man, Max Weber wanted to prove that the base structure also includes ideas.

Money in circulation and capitalism
But there is a whole other aspect of the influence Protestantism, a very palpable one and not in the minds of people.
For a long period of time, 75% of all the money in circulation in Europe was in the hands of the Catholic Church (W. Manchester). What did the Church with this money? She built many Versailles (churches); in other words a sort of Western potlatch.
The radical change came, on the continent, with Protestantism and in England, with Henry VIII (G. M. Trevelyan). From then on, entrepreneurs and merchants could keep a big part of their money, which before had been confiscated by the Church. They invested it in new profitable businesses.
A simple example as illustration: when in the 16th century, Antwerp was besieged by the Catholic Spanish King, Philip II, all `Protestant' entrepreneurs and merchants fled the city and settled in Amsterdam. They created there a golden age (the beginning of pure capitalism for I. Wallerstein).

Max Weber's book is a must read for all those interested in Western history.
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on 14 July 2013
This book has bee so poorly converted to e format as to make it unreadable. I was very disappointed with this purchase.
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on 31 August 2013
The publisher didn't even bother to edit the work after scanning the original document. DON'T SPEND A PENNY ON IT!
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on 13 March 2013
The protestant work ethic is of the most influencial works ever written and indispensible for any scholar or student of economics, few modern writers can resist quoting it to give whatever theory they are touting some credablity. Apart from it has the Spartan virtue which allows the reader to devour in a afternoon, though understanding may take a good longer.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 April 2013
As with any sociological come eco-political investigation, the usefulness of the text comes with how the initial question or terms of reference are framed. So it proves here. This book confirmed several things that I always felt but had previously not articulated. Firstly that the various Protestant sects, their history and inter-relationships, even down to how they define themselves, are somewhat torturous to understand and put in context. Secondly that Capitalism at work is one of those beasts that is easier to spot in action rather then define. Likewise, Weber does his best, but his quest to identify the drivers or the 'spirit' behind modern capitalism rather than to be too specific as to its precise nature.

Capitalism for Weber involves the way in which labour is organized. Feudal society was according to Weber essentially a subsistence based economy. International trade, banking and the existence of a merchant class were proof that Capitalism had its seeds in early European history. Individuals were responsible for their own outputs (such as farmers and weavers), consuming what they needed and selling the surplus on local markets. The Catholic Church and the existing feudal hierarchy had no particular interest in economic expansion for its own sake. Tradition ruled.

Modern Capitalism as it is understood by the author is about how social relationships changed as the Bourgeois developed a new form of economy. This new economy stressed profit, regularity of civic behaviour and the idea of investment rather then consumption. He identifies this growth of the Bourgeois and their organised use of labour and capital as a defining moment of Capitalism.

The underpinning for this vital change Weber claims is the Reformation and the development of various Protestant sects in Europe, Britain and America, namely Lutherans and Calvinists. Lutherans and Calvinists denied the idea of established church and the idea that man could find salvation by 'good works' or the intercession of the Saints. Man had to establish a personal relationship with God, have faith and be prepared to allow his religion to permeate every aspect of his life. Man was predestined to be 'saved' or not. The only proof that a person was 'saved' was through the evidence of living a Godly life. If a man made best use of his talents, led a well ordered life and resisted sin, this was evidence that he was part of the 'elect' and hence 'saved'. It was part of a persons 'calling' to be an active citizen in the World, whilst striving not to be ensnared by its temptations. The notion of making use of ones talents, creating surplus, investing rather then consumption were the philosophical ideas that drove Capitalism. Of course to create surplus meant profit and the overwhelming willingness to make it. It also meant the ability to extend credit and to be an employer or be employed.

So, Weber argues Capitalism had its start with the Reformation. Catholicism he suggested wallowed in tradition, focused on wasteful consumption (building cathedrals) and focused too much on the afterlife rather then getting on with living a practical, useful existence on Earth. The paradox in all this of course is what do Puritan types do with all the surpluses they create? Eventually of course the idea of self- interest as a form of worship became devolved from strict religious observance: hence, modern Capitalism.
Weber's work of course has been subject to much criticism, mainly for three main reasons. Firstly Capitalism existed when Catholicism was more or less, the only Christian game in town, witness Venice which was the centre of extensive trade and credit networks .Was it simply that Capitalism developed in line with the growth of non - Catholic Christian faith groups?, so not cause and effect, more coincidence. Finally and possibly most importantly, does Weber describe accurately what Lutherans and Calvinists might describe as their faith? A life devoted to commerce, no matter how upright, is not service to God in the ascetic sense that many such believers might be it should be.

Weber's book was first published in 1904 and is still widely read today, evidence of the quality and originality of its argument and expression. Like Marx 'Das Capital', the value of the book lies in the role it assigns to the ideas and religion in society. Marx argues that ideas reflect social - political power relations. Weber seems to be saying, that social relations and economic activity are defined and created by ideas. Warning, the prose style might be somewhat heavy and unrelenting some tastes. Also, this is one of the few books I have encountered where the supporting notes section is longer then the text it accompanies.
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on 8 May 2016
The text itself is obviously one of the most notable texts of sociology by one of its founders, however the quality of this edition is dire- it cannot possibly have been even glanced through by anyone who was a native English speaker. If you need to buy a copy to read the text so that you can say you've read it then go ahead but if you wish to study it I would recommend finding a professionally proof-read printed copy.
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on 29 November 2014
Bought for a university course, interesting reading
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on 11 April 2016
Terrible translation and full of typos.
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on 8 June 2014
Production of Marx. weber and Durkheim texts on Kindle is a most welcome development for academics and social science students. Access to these monumental works is not only easy but so competitively priced at around £ 1.00 mark. Social science students would have no excuse for saying that these original texts were not available to them. I warmly congratulate and thank amazon for making this knowledge so easily available to all.

Rohit Barot
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on 2 October 2015
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