The Capitalist Future : A Consequence Of Calvinist Annunciation

970 words - 4 pages

THE CAPITALIST FUTURE : A CONSEQUENCE OF CALVINIST ANNUNCIATION In his work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber predicts that the future will be a world of 'mechanized perfection' devoid of 'religious and ethical meaning.' In this world modern capitalism becomes a self sustaining system no longer needing the Calvinist religious impetus that had inspired the work ethic. Weber argues that the future will be a capitalistic society, where the proletariat and the bourgeoisie alike, will not be driven by religious motivation, but instead by a constant struggle to benefit from the system. He reasons that this future of the capitalist society is a direct consequence of the teachings of Calvinism.The Calvinist work ethic of 'living to work' forms the core of modern capitalism. This ethic originated from the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and the notion of a transcendental God. Predestination decrees that God has already picked out who those 'predestined into everlasting life' (100) and those 'foreordained to everlasting death' (100). Calvinists also believe that God, a distant 'grand conception' (164) who is 'beyond all human comprehension,' (164) is unreachable. Both these beliefs together eliminated any possibility of appeasing God through service or sacrifice. The answer to the question whether believers were the chosen or the damned could thus neither be influenced nor known. If, however, one turned his work into a 'calling,' restricting any desire to wasteful pleasure, he could experience a feeling of assurance that he is indeed a member of the Elect. Calvinism preached this ascetic ethic of hard work and complete absence of frivolous waste of money and time. As a result, the work ethic of the population shifted from 'working to live' to 'living to work.' Traditional capitalism which relied on the 'greedy maximization of profit in a one-shot enterprise,' (14) became the rational modern capitalism, a continuous cycle involving the constant 'productive investment of capital.' (172)The Calvinist teachings demanded honest dealings in business, steady production and sales, and continuous savings and reinvestment which no doubt led to phenomenal business growth and success. Weber illustrates in the following quote:'When the limitation of consumption is combined with the release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable practical result is obvious: accumulation of capital through ascetic compulsion to save.' (172)This 'diligent and frugal' (175) attitude made people richer and 'material goods gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men.' (181) The dependence on external goods went from the 'light cloak which can be thrown aside at any moment' (181) to a necessity, or as Weber puts it, an 'iron cage.' (181) The so called acetic lifestyle now led to an increased dependence on materialism. This is unavoidable, since a religion such as Calvinism which preaches 'industry and frugality' (175) could...

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